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Completion of new city pool likely pushed back to 2025

The Gillette City Council voted to reject the only bid submitted for a new city pool, likely pushing the project's completion date out to 2025.

A snapshot of the old city pool taken in 2018 (file photo)

GILLETTE, Wyo. – Completion for a new city pool has been pushed back at least another year with the Gillette City Council voting to reject all bids submitted for the project Tuesday night. 

During their March 8 meeting, the council rejected a $5.4 million bid from Powder River Construction for the construction of a new city pool, a bid that came in $2.2 million higher than engineering estimates obtained by the city for how much the project should cost, according to City Administrator Hyun Kim. 

It was the only bid to come in despite the city extending the bidding process to attract more bids in the hopes of meeting their pool project parameters including cost and a completion date in 2024. 

Kim ultimately advised the council to reject the bid due to budgetary constraints in favor of starting the bidding process anew, though he said that by doing so the council could no longer rely on the project being completed in 2024 and could most likely expect to push that completion date into 2025. 

The recommendation drew support from nearly every member of the council, aside from Councilmember Tim Carsrud who voiced concerns that while the Powder River Construction bid was high, there was no guarantee that the final price tag would go down if the council chose to put the project out for rebid. 

“I think what we’re seeing in today’s atmosphere, when we put stuff off and allow it to go out, we are seeing prices continuing to rise,” Carsrud said, adding that if someone could say for certain the cost for the future project would go down he could support it. 

But since they can’t, Carsrud said, he wasn’t sure that he could support the recommendation offered by Kim and the city staff. 

Councilwoman Tricia Simonson said, to put it simply, $5 million for a new pool simply isn’t in the city’s budget right now, and while she realized that rejecting the bid would push back the completion date for the pool she felt that staff would be able to come back with some different suggestions that better align with what the city is looking to spend. 

“I live on a budget, and I’m not going to buy something that’s out of my means,” Simonson said. “I just think that right now the pool is out of the city’s means given that we have the Gurley Overpass, we have the wastewater station, and other things like that. I think that, right now, it’s just not in the means for our city budget.”

Councilman Nathan McLeland agreed that while the city pool is an important part of the community and that he recognizes the value it brings, the price is just too high for the council to consider accepting Powder River Construction’s bid. 

“I think I’d be excited to see how the new bids come in, especially if we extend the timeline which I know is going to be an inconvenience for a lot of people,” McLeland said. “But I think we owe it to our constituents to make sure we’re responsible with their tax dollars.” 

But according to Lance Walker, controller for Powder River Construction, getting more bids for the project could be harder than expected. He said that his company never intended to bid for the project in the first place and only did so at the request of city staff who said they were having trouble getting general contractors to submit bids. 

When they decided they would submit a bid for the project, Powder River Construction reached out to 13 different pool sub-contractors to take on the project but only heard back from one who just so happened to have an opening in June and July this year. 

“I don’t know if bids will come down in the future; the largest portion of this project is concrete, rebar-those raw materials,” Walker said. “I’ve been doing this since 2007. I’ve never seen the prices come down yet.”

A motion to approve awarding the bid contract to Powder River Construction ultimately failed with all members of the council aside from Carsrud voting against it. 

While the city prepares to put the project out for rebid, Kim said that the city is currently locked into an agreement with the county to allow residents to swim at the Campbell County Recreation Center for free this coming summer and that they could possibly explore extending that agreement another year.