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Jackson looks at cost-saving options for pool project

Jackson looks at cost-saving options for pool project

Due to rising construction costs, estimates for the total cost of the new Jackson County Pool currently exceed the original $20 million borrowed  for the project by $1.5 million. During a Jan. 4 board meeting, commissioners reviewed cost-saving measures with principal architect Chad Roberson to help keep project costs as close to original estimates as possible.  

“As everybody is aware, we are in a volatile bidding environment at this time,” said Jackson County Manager Don Adams. “We [town staff] worked with the architects to try and see if there were any commonsense areas where we could go into and look at the project itself and see if there were any cost savings that would not impact aesthetics of the building and functionality of the building itself.”

According to Roberson, construction documents will be completed by the end of March. At that time the project will go to the N.C. Department of Insurance for its plan review, and bids should be accepted around the end of May. 

Originally, construction of the pool was estimated at $13.7 million ( in 2020 dollars ), with a $1.85 million cost escalation built in to account for increased construction costs. Including all additional costs, the project was estimated at a total of $19.95 million. Now, total construction costs are estimated at more than $16 million. Additional fees and contingency costs raise the total project cost estimate to over $21.5 million, more than $2 million over budget. 

“There’s been a huge jump in the volatility of the construction market between December of 2020 and December of 2021,” Roberson said. “It’s been substantial, and largely due to the COVID pandemic, labor shortages and even some tariffs that are lingering from other administrations.”

After seeing the increase in costs, county staff asked Roberson to look at possible cost-saving measures that don’t impact aesthetics or functionality of the project. Robertson came back to the county with several options that could save the county almost $500,000. 

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In total, there were six cost-saving measures presented to the board. Roberson recommended reducing the number of door card readers from 25 to 15 to save $65,000; changing the translucent wall manufacturer to save $85,950; switching PVC piping from schedule 80 to schedule 40 to save $30,000; reducing light fixture costs to save $70,000; switching to aluminum feeders from transformer to panel box to save $57,000; and eliminating underground duct work to save $50,000. When factoring a 20% multiplier, this would save a total of $429,540. 

In addition to cost-saving measures, Roberson had a list of alternatives that the county could choose not to fund to save money on the project. These include solar panels, paving the parking lot, scoreboard upgrades, pool deck floor tile and more. 

If the county were to enact all cost-saving measures presented, and not fund any of the alternatives presented, it would save more than $1 million, which would put the county less than $1 million over budget. 

In addition to cost-saving measures and alternatives that the county can choose not to fund, there is another $336,000 in costs that could be removed from the bidding process to be installed by the owner. These include saunas, exterior signage, landscaping, timing system and climbing wall. Roberson recommended removing exterior signage and landscaping from the bidding process. 

“Is there anything else out there that would not drastically impact aesthetics or functionality that would be similar to what we’re talking about here? Have we looked at everything?” asked Adams. 

“Yes, I think we’ve made a deep dive into the minutia of the project trying to identify those areas,” said Robertson. “We’ll continue to do that as we’re refining the construction documents. If there’s something that the availability or market condition makes us change direction, we’re always looking to save money but keep the same amount of quality that is necessary for the project to have longevity.” 

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