Columbia City mayor blames construction prices for aquatics center setback

The Aquatics Center Rendition in Columbia City.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) – Columbia City’s Mayor Ryan Daniel is frustrated that they don’t have the money to afford their city transforming aquatics center.

“We’re disappointed in the bids coming in over what was the anticipated cost,” he said.

The lowest bid for the project is about $800,000 more than what they budgeted. The projected was budgeted for $4.2 million, but the lowest bid came in around $4.7 million. Daniel said the difference in figures is because of the booming construction industry. He believes they have so much demand, that they’re able to raise prices.

“We’re not in this boat alone,” he said. “It’s an issue that’s happening across the state of Indiana right now where we’re having the same kind of scenario that other cities are.”

Fort Wayne construction company Crosby Construction isn’t bidding on the aquatics center, but president Devon Kirk said the industry has not raised prices because of demand. They bid rather aggressively in hopes of beating the competition.

“It being a competitive market as it is, when we bid something we’re not going to waste our time to bid a project and put more mark up on it and possibly lose it,” he said. “We’re not going to change our estimating tactics and structure because of people being busy. We’re going to go ahead and bid it to get it.”

Kirk said the problem lies elsewhere.

“Its probably not so much that the contractors are high,” he said. “It’s the fact that the budgets are too low.”

Kirk said engineers and architects aren’t as accurate at predicting project costs as the contractors who will do the job.

The architect designing the aquatics center, Jack Daniel, disagrees. He said specialty construction companies that construct pools are able to control market prices because they’re so rare, but he admitted that the mayor sent the estimate before the design planning had reached half way and that could account for some of the price differentiation between estimate and bids.

Mayor Daniel said this setback won’t stop them from building the aquatics center.

“We know it’s an important part of our future growth,” he said. “Obviously, we’re frustrated that the bid missed its mark but I am confident the project is going to happen.”

John Sampson behind the regional cities initiative in Fort Wayne say they’ve already helped pay for about 20 percent of the aquatics center. They say its vital for the project to be completed.

“We know these projects are big and difficult because they were intended to be transformative projects in these communities,” he said. “I see no wavering in their commitment to get these projects done. I mean it’s a center piece for Whitley County and Columbia City and have an asset like that in the community. so it’s just really exciting to see what they were doing, seeing their determination, seeing their leadership and the only question now is when we break ground and get going.”

Mayor Daniel added that they will still be holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the aquatics center on August 29. They hope for it to be complete by May 2018.