Low bid for gym at Lamar Dixon comes in $840,000 over the budget

Bids to construct a new gym a Lamar Dixon Expo Center (LDEC) are in, but none comes close to the $2.5 million construction budget set in 2019.  Ascension’s Director of Planning and Facility Maintenance, Ricky Compton delivered the bad news to the Parish Council’s Recreation Committee on Tuesday.  The low bid is $840,000 over the project budget.

On March 21, 2019 Ascension’s Council voted 8-3 to allocate $3 million for recreation projects, most of which is earmarked for “a second gym” at LDEC.  Eschewing a proposal to bond the money out, the vote was to loan the Recreation Department funds to engineer/build the gym, to be repaid from 25% of anticipated annual surplus until the Recreation pays it all back.  The plan was to repay the General Fund from Recreation’s future budgets, approximately $300,000 annually over the next decade.

A budget breakdown for that loan was provided by Ascension Parish Government’s Finance Department in April 2019:

  • $280,000 for Engineering  Fees-Gym Project
  • $20,000 for Professional Services-Gym Project
  • $2,500,000 Contract Payment-Gym Project

Subsequently, additions to the original budget were made.

Recreation recommended another budget amendment, $165,000 added to the contract for “competition wood floors” on the basketball courts in April 2020.  The gym had been pitched as a multi-use facility in 2019, i.e. not just basketball.  Ricky Compton explained the architect has quoted an additional $45,000 “to amend the documents…11 sheets of paper” to make necessary changes.  The competition-grade, wood floors will cost an additional $120,000.

It is unclear if the 2020 addition was factored into the bid.

Compton presented three options to the Recreation Committee on Tuesday:

  • Revise the budget, adding $840,000 (a 34% increase), and accept the low bid;
  • “Value engineer” the project and re-bid.  This would incur additional engineering fees but could reduce the price by $2-300,000;
  • Some combination of the first two.

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Unsurprisingly, Recreation Chairman Travis Turner expressed a preference for the first option, increasing the budget.  The committee voted to send the matter to the Council Finance Committee in February.