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Senior Center cost estimates off by $2M

The lowest bid for the construction of a new Jonesborough Senior Center came in approximately $2 million higher than the amount officials estimated the project would cost.
“We were very disappointed,” Town Administrator Bob Browning said late last week. “They came in much higher than we can afford.”
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a 10-cent property tax increase in 2011 to help fund the new senior center, a project leaders estimated would cost $2.8 million.
The town then borrowed approximately $2.5 million from USDA Rural Development to take on the project.
Late last month, seven bids submitted were opened by town officials.
Johnson City-based Rainey Contracting LLC submitted the lowest bid, offering to do the project for $4.569 million.
“We were pretty far off (on our estimate),” Browning said. “We’re dealing with it.”
Leaders are now looking at ways to “value engineer the project.”
“We are working with the architect and the low bidder to reconfigure some aspects of the specs to make them more affordable and work within our budget,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity to revise our plans a little bit.”
Both Wolfe and Browning said they are starting with the HVAC system, which currently is set to cost the town $1 million.
“There’s way too much money in the HVAC system,” Browning said.
The town landed in a similar situation at the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School where HVAC costs exceeded budgeted funds during renovation work last year.
“We almost cut that cost in half at the McKinney Center and it didn’t impact the results of the cooling,” Browning said. “And there’s some other things (at the Senior Center) that we know can be cut.”
Browning said they will look at nonstructural changes first, including some potential savings with grading work and retaining walls.
The new center will be located at town-owned property on the corner of East Main Street and Longview Avenue.
In November 2012, C.W. Parker, of Ken Ross Architects, the firm that created the building blueprint, presented the proposed design plan to the BMA.
The plan, which garnered unanimous approval, includes two levels.
The first level is 15,402 square feet of finished space, including an arts-and-crafts room, a dining room, a commercial kitchen, administrative offices and more. The lower level would have close to 13,500 square feet, of which approximately 7,200 square feet would be finished initially.
“We may just have to downsize the project. We may end up finishing less of it, possibly,” Browning said. “If we can’t get it there that way, we may have to go into a redesign.”
The proposed plan affords five times the space of the current senior center.
“It may end up three times as much and that might last them 15 years and then we have to revisit it,” Browning said. “We can still do a really good building and have the opportunity to expand.”
During the November 2012 meeting, Parker touted his firm’s “estimating ability” as far as project costs, saying it has been “very good.”
While he warned the BMA that the trend of seeing low bids come in is no longer, he said the cost of the project would likely be driven down by the sheer number of companies wanting to bid on the multimillion dollar project.
Despite the setback, leaders still hope to break ground on the project by the end of the year. And, with any luck, the scope of the project will remain relatively the same.
“Our intention is not to change the physical layout of the building,” Wolfe said. “Based on our conversations thus far, we should have no problem getting the project within budget.”