Bids came in nearly double the expected amount for the proposal to convert the former aviary at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park into an education center.
City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said Thursday that he was surprised the lowest bids for the project were unexpectedly high. The projected $531,612 project received a low bid of about $950,000.
In May, the Watertown City Council learned that the estimated total cost for the project, $487,000, was expected to rise by about $45,000. Despite that news, the council instructed the city engineering office to proceed with going out to bid.
Mr. Hauk said Thursday it will now be up to the council to decide how to proceed. He plans to make a presentation on the bids at the Aug. 6 meeting. City officials had hoped construction would begin in August.
According to Mr. Hauk, the base bid for the project came in at about $750,000, with an additional $133,000 for HVAC/plumbing and about $67,000 for electrical work. He would not identify the companies that had the low bids, saying he needs to sort out them out and then wanted to talk to the contractors about why they came back so high.
“There's a lot to go through and a lot of work to be done,” he said.
The project already has gone through two revisions to keep costs down. In May, the council was presented alternative bids that include having city crews complete some of the demolition work, extend electric service to the A-frame structure and install sidewalks and a ramp. The council also could eliminate solar panels and interior cabinets and display exhibits that zoo officials had requested, he said.
The zoo plans to use the learning center, to be named after the late Mayor Karl R. Burns, for education and exhibit space, and a variety of events, including birthday parties and other gatherings.
In November, the City Council said it liked revised plans that architects said they believed would save the city more than $90,000 from an earlier projection of $587,000, but wanted to retain the structure's A-frame shape.
Contending the aviary was an iconic city structure, the City Council pushed to complete the project despite the objections of the Thompson Park Conservancy, which oversees the zoo. The Conservancy had wanted the aviary torn down.