COLUMBUS — Mayor Jim Bulkley couldn’t convince city council members to backtrack on a contract to build a $315,000 restroom and storage building in Bradshaw Park, but he made it clear he’d like to see multiple options for this type of project in the future to ensure the city is getting the best bang for its buck.
The contract, awarded earlier this month to Columbus-based Bierman Contracting Inc., returned to the agenda this week at Bulkley’s request. He told council members there were “valid concerns” about the project’s cost and that he intended to veto the agreement at the Nov. 6 meeting, but mistakenly signed the resolution before making that call.
Councilman Troy Hiemer asked for the item to appear on Monday’s meeting agenda on the mayor’s behalf.
Bulkley said approving the contract to construct the building that will house men’s and women’s restrooms, storage for the youth football program and a concessions area wasn’t a “huge mistake.”
However, he wanted to see options beyond the concrete block design to determine whether the price tag could be trimmed by using different specifications.
“I believe we can make a quality building that serves the needs that we are after for much less,” Bulkley wrote in an email to council members.
Dennis Kresha was the lone city council member to oppose the contract earlier this month, calling the project the “Cadillac” of restrooms.
He also wanted to know whether an alternate design — perhaps a metal Behlen building on a concrete slab — could reduce the $315,000 cost.
Hiemer said Monday night he, too, would have preferred to see a cost comparison between concrete block and metal buildings.
Columbus Public Property Director Doug Moore, who oversees the parks department, told the council he’d be “really concerned” about adding a metal building instead of concrete.
“Our restrooms in the public sector take a beating,” he said. “Block buildings can withstand that beating.”
This punishment includes graffiti spay-painted on walls, damage from cherry bombs and fires intentionally lit inside restroom buildings, Moore told the council.
Moore said concrete buildings require less maintenance than metal structures and are a safer spot for people seeking protection during severe thunderstorms — although this building will not be a certified tornado shelter.
The roughly 2,400-square-foot building was designed to meet the city’s needs, he said, adding that there’s no “fluff” in the project.
“I think the design we have out there is something we’d be really proud of,” Moore said.
City staff members noted at the Nov. 6 meeting that Americans with Disabilities Act regulations increase the cost of buildings because they must be larger to meet these rules.
Another issue, Councilman Rich Jablonski said Monday night, is the low number of contractors that bid on city projects.
When only a couple of local contractors submit bids and they’re already busy with other work, there’s no incentive for them to come in with a lower price to win the project, he said.
“If we had six or seven contractors, this price probably would have been different,” Jablonski said.
“That’s the dilemma we’re in here in Columbus,” he added. “We just don’t have anybody that’s interested in doing our work — except for full price.”
The city received three bids for the Bradshaw Park restroom building, with the other two coming from Foreman Lumber ($319,800) and B-D Construction ($358,000), both based in Columbus.
Hiemer and Kresha were the only council members who voted in favor of seeking alternate designs for the building, so the project, funded by local sales tax revenue, will proceed as previously approved.
The building will replace the current storage facility near the football field and add a second set of restrooms at the park in southwest Columbus. It will also feature an overhang that serves as a picnic shelter.
Moore hopes to see construction begin next spring. Parks department employees will tear down the existing storage building once the new facility is complete.