Hopes for the early completion of a portion of Blanchard Woods Park were dashed Monday at a meeting of the Columbia County Public Works Committee.
By accepting bids from contractors for construction of the park before a permit was granted by the state Environmental Protection Division, county officials are now forced to rebid the project, said Mark Chostner, the interim division director of the county's Construction and Maintenance Department.
"We were caught with our pants down," said Columbia County Commissioner Tommy Mercer, the chairman of the committee.
The commission chose R.D. Brown and Associates, which turned in the low bid of about $4.8 million, in November, before receiving a stream buffer permit from EPD.
EPD granted the permit in February, three weeks after R.D. Brown's bid expired, Chostner said.
"In October, we decided it was worth taking a chance to bid the project at the same time the permits were finishing up," he said. "There was an opportunity to have both permits in hand by the time we were going to sign with a contractor."
County officials took the gamble, Chostner said, with the hope that four soccer fields could be constructed by fall 2006, a time frame that will not be met.
The soccer fields will now be completed along with the same time frame as the rest of the park.
Typically, the county waits until permits are granted and then bids the project, which is now what the county will do.
Construction on the park should begin in June with completion set for fall 2007, Chostner said.
"If we hadn't bid in November, we would have bid right now," he said. "We haven't lost any time. What we did was take advantage of a possible opportunity where we thought we'd have the permits in time."
Although the park's overall completion time frame hasn't changed, the cost of the project might go up after it is rebid.
"Now they (contractors) know what the bids were, so they'll probably up the bids," Mercer said.
Commissioner Steve Brown estimated the bidding error could cost the county about $300,000.
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