CLEARWATER — Once again, another downtown waterfront project is going to cost taxpayers more than they were promised.
The city's plan to build a promenade near Coachman Park will cost about $180,000 more than residents were initially told.
The promenade is part of a project that includes boat slips, a boardwalk and a fishing pier. The boat slips needed voter approval, but if they had been shot down, the city planned to build the promenade anyway, at a promised cost of $950,000.
But the price has since climbed.
What was the proposal?
The city wants to build the Clearwater Bayfront Promenade on the existing pilings of the old Memorial Causeway Bridge. The promenade, a concrete deck, will be 200 feet long and 32 feet wide.
What's the project's status?
First, the good news. The city is expected to sign a deal with Tampa-based Misener Marine Construction to build the promenade. Work is expected to start sometime in July, and it should take about 180 days to build.
The bad news?
The promenade will now cost $1,130,266, or $180,266 more than expected.
What caused the overrun?
The Tampa arm of Wade Trim, the engineering and planning consultant the city hired to oversee the project and its costs, made the projections several years ago. Since then, the price of concrete has gone up.
Structural testing must also be conducted on the pilings, which wasn't factored in. And money will be needed to get the equipment — most of it on barges — to the site.
How will they pay for the extra costs?
The city will use money from its $24-million reserve fund.
What is the City Council going to do?
City leaders appear ready to sign off on the plan this Thursday.
This isn't the first downtown water project that has had overrun issues, is it?
No. When the city was selling the boat slip project to voters, officials said it would cost $11-million to build 129 floating concrete slips, a boardwalk and fishing pier.
That project, which will now have 132 slips, will cost close to $2-million more than expected because officials say they need to build a stronger electrical system than the one originally envisioned so they can service bigger boats. Consultants underestimated the amount of power the project needed.
In addition, prices on copper — an essential component to the system — have doubled since 2006. The city also wants to install a lighted walkway for boaters and enhance the landscaping. This means making some changes where nearby Cleveland and Drew streets connect.
Additionally, the slips need stronger structures to protect the boats from waves.
What are City Council members saying?
Mayor Frank Hibbard, who championed the project along with the boat slips, said, "It's one of the frustrating facts when dealing with engineering and designs versus real construction."
Paul Gibson, who campaigned against the boat slip project because he didn't believe it would make money, said the "city's history is one of exceeding capital budgets, which is unacceptable. Much of the blame lies at the feet of well-paid consultants who fail to properly design our capital projects."