After a group of bids for construction work came in higher than expected, the city of Powell likely has missed its shot to open the Park at Seldom Seen's athletics fields by mid-2018.

Powell City Council on Aug. 15 unanimously voted to reject the three bids it received for work on the initial phases of the park, which will sit on 23 acres northwest of the Seldom Seen Road railroad crossing. While officials have estimated the initial work at $3.4 million, the two qualifying bids came in at $3.8 million and $4.4 million, according to city records.

When a 2016 estimate for the entire project came in at $9 million, city officials decided to move forward with the park in phases because the city lacked funding for the full project.The city is attempting to move forward with the first three phases, which include amenities such as a concession and restroom building, a playground, outdoor athletics fields and parking.

Jeff Snyder, Powell's director of parks and recreation, said council's aggressive timeline for the project was "the biggest stumbling block" for construction firms. Council has pushed for grass to go in before the end of October to allow residents to use the park's athletics fields by mid-2018.

"The feedback was the schedule was just not doable," he said.

Snyder said the city also went out to bid during a busy time for construction firms, which reduced the number of bids.

City Manager Steve Lutz said the city has two options in the wake of council's decision to reject all bids: go out to bid again or invoke its home-rule power to negotiate directly with contractors.

Councilman Tom Counts said he favored the second option. He said a negotiated contract may seem like a less-transparent process but noted the city already has gone through a public bidding process.

"If it allows us to be more creative in terms of getting the park built, I think it's something we should definitely consider," he said.

Vice Mayor Jon Bennehoof said he thought the negotiation process could lead to savings.

"We'd have the opportunity to ask (firms) what their pinch points are," he said.

After the failed bidding process, city officials expressed doubt that grass seed would be planted at the site's athletics fields by the end of the year. The delay could prevent residents from using the fields until fall 2018 or later.

Counts said he views the quality of the park ultimately as more important than the timetable initially set by council.

"I've come to the conclusion that if this park has to wait ... until another fall to be used, we should do that," he said. "This park is going to be here for a long, long time. Let's do it right."

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@twgallick