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Bids for Bethlehem’s new Memorial Pool came in high: Will that delay its opening next year?

The bids to build a “destination” swimming pool in Bethlehem came in over budget, pushing the overall cost up 10 percent to $5 million, Bethlehem Business Administrator Eric Evans said told City Council Tuesday.Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration wants to transfer some unspent money from past borrowings and recreation fees to make up the difference.City Council wants to vet those transfers over the next two weeks and left open the possibility of rebidding the project which has the potential to delay the opening of Memorial Pool next June.“This is a very ambitious schedule, and we are already over budget. It does give me pause,” Council President Adam Waldron said. “We deserve a great Memorial Pool, but I’m not confident that this is the path toward it right now.”The city closed its largest pool, Memorial Pool, last year because the mayor said it didn’t make financial sense to repair it when the city was preparing the replace the 60-year-old swimming hole on Illicks Mill Road with a modern pool with modern slides and other water amusements. The city is keeping open smaller pools at West Side, Clearview, Stark and Yosko during Memorial Pool’s closure.The city held several public meetings last year to review the design of the new pool, had planned to construct it this year and open it by Memorial Day 2020.The city had budgeted $4.6 million for the pool, including $420,000 for the design. The lowest general contractor bid came in at just over $4 million. The other two bids were $5 million and $6 million.The other contracts, such as plumbing and HVAC system, total about $500,000. That puts the total cost of the pool at $5 million.Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration is asking for another $700,000 to cover the higher cost plus a 3% contingency fund.Councilman J. William Reynolds questioned why the city should rush the project when, perhaps, the cost might get lower if the city waits and rebids the work.Public Works Director Michael Alkhal said the city gave contractors 30 days to bid, more than what is required, and reached out to contractors to alert them of the project. There were about 13 contractors interested but just three bids on the project. He said bids were the result of a good economy where many projects are under construction.Councilman Bryan Callahan argued that economy is going to stay strong over the next year, especially with a presidential election on the horizon, and the price likely won’t get better. He said the project should move forward now.Evans proposed making up the difference in cost by transferring $175,000 in bond money which was budgeted for a park system study, $375,000 from recreation fees and $80,000 in bond money that was left over from a geographic information systems project.Several council members said they wanted to discuss whether those are the best places for the money to come from.A council committee meeting is scheduled for June 18 to review the matter and council could take a vote to fund the pool at a council meeting later that night.
Source: Morningcall

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