Lee library project overbid by $900,000

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The proposed Lee County library/conference center may be headed back to the drawing board after last week's bid opening on the project came in almost a million dollars over architects' projected budget.

Hensler and Beavers of Doraville presented the apparent low bid of $4,803,578, which was significantly higher than SRJ Architects' expected price of around $3.9 million. The Atlanta-area builder was one of 18 contractors that bid on the project.

"We figured a per-square-foot price that came in a lot higher than we were projecting," SRJ project architect Bruce Richards said Monday morning. "Where the costs really missed were in the site work and electrical.

"We've sent a letter to the Board of Commissioners offering a number of options. They can decide to provide additional funding and proceed as planned; we can work with the apparent low bidder on value engineering that would lower the cost, or they could ask for a redesign, which would in turn mean a rebid."

Richards said a complete redesign of the project could take up to six additional months to complete.

Bids on the project ranged from Hensler & Beavers' apparent low to a high of $5,806,700. All bids were figured with the inclusion of four deductive alternates drawn into the bid package in the event of an overbid.

Despite the $900,000 overbid, Lee County Library officials said Monday they expect their portion of the project to move forward as planned.

"We'll have to wait and see what decision the County Commission makes, but I don't think (the overbid) will impact the library," county Library Director Claire Leavy said. "The money for the library -- $2 million from SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) and $2 million from the state -- is there.

"Obviously if there is a redesign (of the conference center), the delay will impact us. But as far as I know, I don't think (the overbid) affects us financially."

Library Board Chairman Eddie Hinman said he didn't want to speculate until Richards and project lead architect Sonya Spalinger met with the County Commission and later with the Library Board tonight.

"Anything anybody says at this point is premature," Hinman said. "But from the library's standpoint, we're good to go. We haven't really sat down and discussed it with the architect or the Commission, but until we hear differently, we're moving forward with the idea that we're going to build a library."

Richards and Spalinger are expected to meet with the County Commission at its 6 p.m. work session tonight and then leave to talk with the Library Board. They can expect to come under the close scrutiny of Smithville/Chokee Commissioner Dennis Roland.

"I've said all along that $4 million is all I'll vote to spend," Roland said Monday. "The figure I've heard is that with books, furniture and everything else, the price is already around $6.3 million. We've got to live within our means; we're starting to look like the federal government.

"I wish we'd just taken the $2 million from the state and the $2 million in SPLOST funds and done road projects. That's what we need. It's like we're doing this to help out the Oakland Development."