ZEPHYRHILLS — Construction has yet to start on the new city library, but its architect and construction manager delivered bad news Monday — the project is already 30 percent over budget.
When the council voted a year ago to build a new 4,200-square-foot library, rather than expand the existing facility, the project was estimated at $1.5 million, to be paid for with Penny for Pasco funds.
That figure inched up to $1.7 million as plans proceeded; now the cost is up to $2.55 million, said Phil Trezza of Harvard Jolly Architects.
Trezza said swapping out the brick and cast stone exterior for painted stucco and removing the clear story atop the building, along with a few other budgetary tweaks, could bring the price down to about $1.8 million.
Council members did not mince words in expressing their displeasure with the news.
"I'm really angry," said council member Jodi Wilkeson. "If I had done this to a client, I'd be fired."
Council president Lance Smith pointed out that the council made clear the amount of money available to work with during interviews with potential construction management firms. AD Morgan, the firm chosen, promised to get the job done within budget, Smith noted. Hearing the new figure is a "bitter pill to swallow," he added.
"How did we miss that ballpark figure by this much?" asked council member Ken Burgess. "I feel like you gave us a shiny new penny and now you want to take it back. This really puts us in a bad spot."
George Goodspeed of AD Morgan said much of the cost increase stems from problems with ground work discovered during an engineering inspection, which came after the bid was awarded. Initially, they thought some of the new library's underground infrastructure could tie in with the existing facility's system; a closer look, however, revealed a disparity in ground levels, which is costly to remedy, Goodspeed said.
Library director Vicki Elkins urged the council to approve the original brick and cast stone design, using Penny for Pasco reserve funds to cover the additional cost. She reminded council members of the long history of the city's promise to give residents a new library, starting with a November 2006 vote to approve spending $3.8 million on a new library. Penny for Pasco money was set aside each year for the project, until 2009, when the project was put on hold while the city paid to fix the flooded Sixth Avenue fire station and the economy tanked. When the project was renewed in 2011, the pot of money available to pay for it was significantly less than originally planned for, Elkins said.
"If the city had continued to put aside Penny for Pasco revenues each year, there would be enough funds now to pay for this," said Elkins.
Trezza noted the brick and stone cast exterior will require little recurring maintenance and adds significantly to the architectural history of the city.
City Manager Jim Drumm said there is enough money available in the Penny for Pasco reserves to pay for the additional costs; the council voted unanimously to approve moving forward with a $2.55 million budget.
"One cent over, it's going to be hell to pay," said council member Kent Compton.
Trezza said construction should begin in mid-March and take about one year to complete.