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Tricky issues regarding the construction of Minerva's new community swimming pool were the topic of the day at a special meeting of Village Council on April 4.
Council and pool development committee members debated how to move forward with construction of the pool in light of state law and current project costs. Whether to install lights at the pool emerged as the major concern.
After a lengthy discussion and debate, council voted four-to-one in favor of moving forward on a contract with Ray Electric for bonding and for electrical work associated with the pool's pump house but not for pole lights, which council agreed will not be installed at the pool at this time.
According to information Village Administrator Dave Harp provided at a March 21 workshop, the village had already retained Ray Electric to provide drawings for electrical bonding, also called grounding, as well as electrical work required in the nearby pump house, a facility that will chemically treat the pool water.
Ray Electric provided a March 2 quote of $38,573 for bonding and pump house work not including the installation of conduit or poles for lights. The company provided a separate quote, dated Jan. 26, for all electrical work including lighting conduit and poles. That quote totaled $64,985.
A current cost of the pool project to-date, which Harp provided to The News Leader, shows the entire construction project with an estimated $721,681 price tag not including materials for lights, which would cost an additional $23,000 to $26,000 at today's market costs.
Harp said at council's April 4 meeting that "cost overruns" with the pool had caused the village to reconsider plans for lighting installation.
The question before council centered on a state requirement that municipalities bid out any project costing more than $50,000. Harp said entering a bidding process would add about four weeks to the construction project and delay the opening of the pool.
According to Councilman Tim Tarbet, council had also been informed that delivery of light poles would require 12 weeks, further delaying the opening.
Last month council opted to see if conduit for lights could be installed first with plans to install the poles later, but Village Solicitor Clark Battista said April 4 that the move would violate state law prohibiting an action called splitting a bid.
Splitting a bid occurs when activities for one project costing more than $50,000 are divided into separate, smaller projects in an attempt to split the cost and avoid the required bidding process.
Battista said the village had two options to avoid splitting: include lighting in the electrical project and enter the bidding process, which would delay the opening of the pool; or, to open the pool sooner, proceed only with electrical bonding and pump house work needed to operate the pool.
"We want to not do anything that's going to lead us to the possibility that someone can come in and...say what we did was not valid. ...If we split the contract there's risk of misdemeanors. It would be a second-degree misdemeanor," he stated.
Battista added that any legislation council passed regarding electrical work could not be passed as an emergency because, according to his research of comparable cases, lighting for the pool could not be defined as a public emergency.
"I'm going to take the conservative route and say it's not an emergency. If we're trying to get the pool open right now, we can say it's an emergency...because we want to be open...to make revenue, but I'm not comfortable saying that we'd have to have lights up as an emergency," he explained.
Harp then notified council that the village's contractor, Family Fun, told him further cement work had to be put on hold until electrical bonding and pump house work is completed and passes inspection.
"I think you've got to get an electrical guy to finish what's got to be done...because otherwise Family Fun's got a contract they've already got cement guys here we're going to pull them off the contract," Harp stated.
Discussion about whether to proceed with lights ranged back and forth.
Council considered, but discarded, an option for Family Fun to obtain its own electrical contractor and develop a change order to move forward with electrical bonding and pump house work. That option would have required council to include lighting in the project and proceed with the bidding process.
Harp noted that the approved specifications for light fixtures call for them to be installed outside the pool fence in an area that would be seeded with grass, which he said could be easily dug up next year to install light poles as a separate project.
However, Councilwoman Becky Stoller, who voted against the motion not to include lighting, said, "I'd rather this whole project get...done, out of the way, so we're not tearing up things later. Bid it out. Be done with it. If we...have a later start, then we start later."
Councilwoman Cynthia Lawson pointed out that without lights the pool can operate only during daylight hours; however, she voted in favor of the final motion not to include lighting in order to open the pool sooner.
Councilwoman Billie Rowe, who also voted in favor of the motion, cited information that Ray Electric provided at the March 21 workshop about the rising cost of materials.
"Every time we stop and start again, the price goes up again. We have only a certain amount of money we can use," Rowe stated.
Councilman Tarbet initially supported the idea of including lighting and opening the pool later in the summer but ultimately supported the motion not to include lighting at this time.