Entryway: A million-dollar mistake? | AspenTimes.com

Entryway: A million-dollar mistake?

Madeleine OsbergerSnowmass correspondent

The tab for the Entryway project is more than $1.4 million more than its projected budget and climbing, the Snowmass Village Town Council learned this week.Escalating construction costs coupled with errors in estimating how much it will cost to add some features contributed to the mistake, Town Manager Mike Segrest said. The Entryway is planned for the Rodeo Grounds area.The true price of the project’s main components – intercept park and ride, roundabout, entryway/welcome center, road improvements – is greater than originally estimated.Snowmass Village Housing Manager Joe Coffey also said the deed-restricted housing component will exceed early forecasts because of rapidly increasing earth-moving and construction costs.”What has happened is the scope of the project has increased to a large degree” from the initial plans, said Debbie Duley, project manager for the Entryway. “We’re now improving Brush Creek Road from well above the new intersection [just west of the Rodeo Grounds] to well below the new visitors center.”Other add-ons include new landscape islands, additional turning lanes, regrading costs and more signs, she said. A tremendous increase in construction pricing also contributed to the cost overruns, Duley said.Former Town Councilman Bob Purvis, a current member of the Financial Advisory Board, chastised the town for its miscalculation and overruns. He noted that the project was still $441,000 more than projected after removing what he called the “million-dollar mistake,” underestimating some costs.When compounded with other financial miscues, Purvis said, the project was actually 30 percent, or $3 million, more than officials expected.”I think you ought to take a time out and say, ‘How did we get here?'” Purvis said. He also suggested that minor budget amendments offered negligible solutions. Instead, he suggested that Brush Creek Road and Horse Ranch Drive relocation not move forward. “That’s big thinking,” Purvis said, the opposite of alterations to stonework on the underpass, which he termed “little thinking. And you better stop that, please.”RETT to the rescueRather than attempt to trim costs, the town on Tuesday said it will use Real Estate Transfer Tax money to fund the unexpected shortfall. The town will also ask project managers to use less costly materials in some areas.Mayor Doug Mercatoris said RETT funds came in at more than double what 2005 estimates – $5.7 million rather than the budgeted $2.1 million.”We plan on using these monies as a one-time expenditure on these facilities,” Mercatoris said.He also defended the plan to pay for whatever is needed, rather than cutting or delaying part of the plan.”These are not over-budget items. These are upgrades and changes to the facility we feel the community deserves,” Mercatoris said.Mercatoris said the upgrades, which involve everything from the building’s architecture to improved energy efficiency of the recreation building, an expanded gymnasium and pool facility, were anticipated as early as last fall, when the town asked the public to expand the uses for the RETT taxes.Segrest defended the spending, as well.”This project certainly hasn’t spiraled out of control,” he said.Segrest said “cost escalations have been significant” since blueprints were first proposed two years ago.Mercatoris, though, said underestimating by nearly $900,000 “was an error. And it would have been nice if the error was known six months ago.”

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