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More lakefront plan cost reviews possible July 14

Wilmette Park Board Commissioners and lakefront committee members Gary Benz, left, and Bryan Abbott before the March vote that approved the lakefront master plan.   |  Kathy Routliffe/Sun-Times Media
Wilmette Park Board Commissioners and lakefront committee members Gary Benz, left, and Bryan Abbott before the March vote that approved the lakefront master plan. | Kathy Routliffe/Sun-Times Media

WILMETTE — Value engineering will probably be the name of the game when Wilmette Park District commissioners tackle the latest financial iteration of their Lakefront Master Plan, one that has crept up from $13.3 to $14 million and, potentially at least, up to $15 million.

They get their next chance Monday to mull cost differences between estimates from construction consultant W.B. Olson and lakefront plan consultant JJR, along with potential cost savings in lighting, paving and sewer improvements that officials have spotted in the past month.

Among the possible savings: $1.5 to $2 million in savings on projected paving costs, based on analysis of existing pavement and asphalt bases; and potentially up to half a million in savings if the district doesn’t have to replace as many sewer lines as it originally thought it might have to.

The board is set to meet 7:30 p.m. July 14 in Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave.

At least one commissioner suggested last week that board members’ unhappiness with the possible cost bloat will underlie a lot of the conversation

“We’ve done conceptual pricing 101, 102 and 103, and we’re saying we are going to manage taxpayer dollars and keep costs right where we are unless there’s a big surprise in something like the sewers or the infrastructure,” Gary Benz said July 11.

Benz, a member of the board’s lakefront committee, said the board must get a more concrete idea of project costs before it can decide whether to seek voters’ approval for selling bonds to pay for the master plan.

That has to happen before August 18, the deadline to get a referendum on the November ballot. District officials would like to begin work on master plan upgrades of Gillson and Langdon Parks in 2015; they would need bond approval for sales late this year and early in 2015 to comply to that informal schedule.

Benz also said board members did not like the idea of increasing the potential bond sale from $14 to $15 million, despite staff assurances that that would allow the district to handle any unexpected costs without forcing the district to raise taxes.

“This didn’t get an overwhelming vote from us,” he said.

Monday’s board agenda lists no master plan-related action, but commissioners will review the latest report from the lakefront committee, which last met July 7.

The committee reviewed a report by committee chairman Bryan Abbott, an engineer himself, of what he believes the master plan’s so-called soft costs – those that aren’t directly construction-related – could be. They also reviewed a response to Abbott’s estimates by Bill Lambrecht, the district’s parks and planning superintendent.

In May, some commissioners got sticker shock when they learned of an unexpected $998,000 in consulting fees that some felt hadn’t been properly included in the original $13.3 million plan estimate.

Although district administrators, including Director Steve Wilson, said financing plans could handle that cost increase without forcing taxpayers to pay more for the bond sales, commissioners have been eyeing potential lakefront line items very carefully since then.

Despite cost questions, Benz insisted that the district would end up with a fiscal plan it could confidently bring to voters.

“I’m comfortable we’re not off schedule, and that when we go to the public with the number, it will be a number that we won’t have to tap dance around.”

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