NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday threw out a contractor's bid to build the SunWest Park in Aripeka because it came in too high, but the work might still proceed this spring under a budget-saving plan involving Harbourtowne developer Gary Grubbs.
Commission Chairman Jack Mariano and county staffers said that Grubbs has volunteered to grade areas around the park, including near the lake to create a beach — work that could potentially save the county about $1 million.
County Administrator Michele Baker said the board will sign an agreement with Grubbs to perform the work after the next board meeting in two weeks. After that, the county will rebid the park project, but without the grading portion.
Baker said the grading work, which involves scooping material from the lake bed, just past the water's edge, might have proved too costly and discouraged some builders from submitting bids.
Only one contractor, David Nelson Construction, submitted a bid that met the project's qualifications, but it was thrown out after it exceeded the project's $4.5 million budget by $2.3 million.
Baker said she hopes that reducing the scope and size of the project will attract more bidders and bring the price tag more in line with what the county wants to spend.
"We have no problem finding contractors to build parks," she said. "It's the grading portion that's the problem."
Mariano, the project's biggest booster on the commission, has pushed to have the park finished by Memorial Day weekend, but with these latest setbacks, that is looking less likely.
"I'm still hoping for Memorial Day, but if not then by July 4," he said.
Bidding and selecting a new contractor will take 30 to 45 days. Grubbs wouldn't start work at the site — a former mine — for at least two weeks. Officials said he would need to finish his work before the contractor can step in to complete the park.
In addition to a beach and lake, the facility will include a snack bar, walking trails, 500 parking spaces, 40 beach volleyball courts and a wakeboard device to pull riders through the water. Long-term, county officials hope SunWest Park will host volleyball and wakeboarding competitions.
An agreement with the wakeboard operator is expected to come before the commission next month.
Baker said Grubbs, a miner, is free to collect the dirt to use toward other projects, but he will not receive any compensation. She noted, however, that the park may benefit his planned Harbourtowne resort and home development just to the north.
"I was worried when I first saw the bid," Mariano said. "I wasn't sure what we would do. Then Gary stepped up and said he could get the grading done. I was thrilled."
Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.