DUNEDIN — When finally completed, it is estimated the city will have spent from $690,000 to $715,000 on a metal barn designed to house Dunedin Golf Club’s carts and pro shop.

The scope and rising price tag of the project has inspired the city to consider contracting with a professional estimator on its large construction projects in the future, even though City Manager Jennifer Bramley noted, “actually, in the scheme of things, this is not one of our larger projects.”

At an Oct. 1 work session, Keith Fogarty, public services division director, told commissioners that in order to save money, staff initially conceived of a project designed to refurbish the former golf club cart barn and pro shop. However, those plans were changed significantly when it was found the building was outdated and did not meet building codes.

At the work session, staff recommended and commissioners agreed to award a bid for $398,135 to Design & Construction Innovations of Land O’Lakes for design and eventual erection of a pre-engineered metal building, which was purchased earlier this year.

A future budget amendment in fiscal year 2020 will be brought to the City Commission to transfer $288,000 from the Infrastructure Sales Tax Fund to cover increases in costs above the amount originally budgeted, Parks and Recreation Director Vince Gizzi explained.

Fogarty told commissioners that once completed, the total cost of the project could be $690,000, including architect services, tent rentals and other items. In addition, the potential that the tent that currently houses the club’s golf carts will have to be rented for a longer period of time could push the final project cost closer to $715,000.

On Jan. 22, the commission awarded a contract to Smith Rents Tents of Clearwater in the amount of $43,450 for the four-month rental of a 50-by-120-foot tent to temporarily house the existing golf cart fleet during demolition and reconstruction.

Then on Aug. 20, the commission awarded a four-month contract extension to SRT in the amount of $38,160.

On Jan. 22, the commission awarded $112,760 to Davis Construction Enterprises of Safety Harbor for the purchase of a pre-engineered metal building. Plans call for the building to house a 13,223-square-foot cart barn with a 1,736 square-foot air-conditioned pro shop.

In order to save money, staff decided all site work outside the building footprint, including grading, drainage, landscape, irrigation and paving, would be performed by the city’s public services personnel.

Fogarty noted the project has gone through many twists and turns. “It was determined just taking a Band-Aid approach and putting a new roof on the structure was not feasible.”

In January 2018, the city paid $9,800 for the services of architect Robert P. Resch III to conduct a structural, electrical, mechanical and plumbing assessment of the old structure.

“The subsequent report revealed several critical deficiencies within the cart barn. These critical items could not be addressed without meeting Florida Building Code or National Fire Protection Association requirements and criteria,” Fogarty explained. The cart barn and pro shop had to be demolished.

In December 2018, the commission awarded $54,568 to Cross Construction Services of Lutz for the demolition.

In August 2018, the commission approved $40,199 for continuing architectural services with Resch for design and related professional services.

Along with rising costs, project delays snowballed. A delivery issue pushed demolition from March to April, which pushed geotechnical work to May. There were two final design review requests from the golf club’s board of directors in May. Final bid documents were completed in mid-June, with the project originally put out for bidding for 30 days in July, with a bid opening in mid-August.

Fogarty said the problems did not end there. Due to confusion by several bidders on what work was to be completed by the contractor and what would be done by city employees, the decision was made to reject the bids.

The project was subsequently re-bid for a two-week period in late August, with specific instructions to prospective bidders as to their scope of work. Another bid opening was held on Sept. 17.

The city received five bid packages for the project ranging from $398,135 to $1,239,410.

“The Design & Construction Innovations submittal was determined to be the lowest, responsive and responsible bid. This company has successfully completed projects of similar scope and nature for other agencies, and their quality of work and timeliness is anticipated for this project,” Fogerty said.

Bramley said the escalating costs came “because we were trying to save money and do it ourselves. That resulted in some confusion when we put out the bid,” the city manager said. “If you approve this bid today, there is a clear road ahead of us in completing the project.”

Commissioner Maureen Freaney said, “Once and a while you have a project that gets on your last nerve, and this is it. It’s the poster child of bad estimating.”

Freaney added the city has had similar projects where costs have escalated after approval.

The city manager told commissioners she already has plans to better control estimated project costs. “On our projects, I think we need a professional estimator to look at them, and we are doing that specifically with the City Hall,” Bramley said.

Harvard Jolly, architect on the new City Hall project, “is under orders to get the best estimator they can,” Bramley told commissioners.

“A lot of these projects we have been estimating ourselves,” Bramley said. “The issue is the inflation in the construction market is not something we could have estimated. It’s really crazy, especially in Pinellas County. We are competing against some of those larger projects for our smaller projects. It’s hard for us to get subcontractors, and when we do, the project has escalated.”

She said the city will bring professional estimators in on larger projects and will put together a construction capital committee that will look at projects “holistically, to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.”

Fogarty estimated the golf club project could be completed by late March.