By Shawn Byrne
Despite attempts at justifying the costs, everyone in Town Council Chambers seemed to be against spending $265,000 for a 570 square-foot addition to the library at the Sept. 3 council meeting.
That breaks down to about $465 per square foot, which left everyone taken aback by the sum being asked for by the low bidder, GCON Inc. of Phoenix.
“I was surprised to see the amount of $265,000,” Wickenburg resident Gordon McLean said to council at the meeting. “This is not the Taj Mahal.”
No motion was made on whether or not to accept the bid. Instead, council decided to table the item so it could hear from the project leads as to how the addition would be used.
When the project won the Participatory Budget contest Aug. 1, 2018 – beating out a community garden, an amphitheater in Stone Park, and shade on the Hassayampa River Walk – its stated purpose was to provide more space for patrons, a quiet space away from the front of the library, an enclosed patio that would include year-round access, and the possibility of a coffee bar in the future.
The Participatory Budget allocated $65,000 toward the project, and since then The Library Society has pledged $25,000 and Friends of the Library $15,000. The balance would have come from the general, Capital Improvement Projects and reciprocal funds. The $65,000 originally awarded made it about a $115 per square foot project, which changed dramatically.
“This is a lesson learned on Participatory Budgets,” said Vince Lorefice, town manager. “There will have to be more oversight in the future. Part of the ultimate design was enriched because what was originally presented was not meeting the architectural design we wanted. We want it to look like it’s been there for a long time.
“There were cheaper designs, but it wouldn’t have fit what we wanted.”
This is the second bidding process the library addition has been through. The first process occurred in January with bids being rejected because the amount of time given to complete the project was deemed too short, Lorefice told council.
Seven bids were presented to the Town in January, and another three this round. GCON’s $265,000 was the lowest out of all 10.
“The first time the bids were even higher,” Lorefice said. “Ten contractors have gone through a sealed bid process, and there hasn’t been a lower one than this.”
Council is expected to hear from Diane Huth and Patty Sickles from Friends of the Library about their participatory budget application and intended vision for the addition at its meeting Monday, Sept. 16. The possibility of delaying the project until the cost could be decreased to a reasonable amount was discussed, even if that means postponing it two years down the road.
“It must be we have obviously grown and there must be great economic development if we can afford this,” said Henry Willis of Wickenburg during the Council meeting. “Just seven years ago we wondered if we could even afford a library.”