Northeast Tarrant

December 30, 2013

Rising construction costs make new NRH animal shelter a question mark

North Richland Hills could opt to spend more money than planned or delay the project until costs come down.

A recovering economy and the higher costs that go with it could be hampering the long-awaited construction of the city’s new animal shelter.

Construction costs were expected to total between $2.6 million and $2.95 million for a 10,000-square-foot facility. Bids instead came in between $3.95 million and $4.96 million. The one that the bid evaluation committee liked the best was about $4.17 million because it offered the best value, city officials said.

The bids, which opened in October, have come at a time when construction costs “have increased significantly,” City Manager Mark Hindman said. City officials do not believe they will come down anytime soon.

“Now, there’s a pent-up demand … which is nice to see,” Hindman said. “But unfortunately, it’s not a nice time to be building a project.”

Police Chief Jimmy Perdue, who oversees some city construction projects, said options include adding about $1.5 million to the budget, adding $700,000 to the budget, cutting the scale of the new animal shelter or expanding the existing shelter for a cost of $3.4 million. The cost for the expansion is a rough estimate, Perdue said.

The city could also delay the project until construction costs come down, Perdue said at a recent City Council workshop. “Nobody knows when that would happen or what the crystal ball would be,” Perdue said. “We would just have to hope for the best.”

When the current 6,700-square-foot shelter was built in 1987, North Richland Hills’ population was about 40,000, according to city officials. The city’s population has since grown by 60 percent to about 64,000 residents. The city’s population is estimated to increase to about 77,000 by the time all the residential land available is developed.

The shelter was designed to house 96 animals, though it houses 110 animals on average. The new center would house 145 animals.

“We’re doing this for a reason,” Mayor Oscar Trevino said. “We’re doing this because this is what our need is, this is what we’re trying to do for the animals.”

Voters approved $1.3 million in bonds in 2003, with the expectation that the rest of what was expected to be a $3.4 million project could be raised through donations and fundraisers. Only about $900,000 has been raised through direct donations and voluntary public project contributions through water bills. In addition to construction costs, the city must pay for architectural fees and furniture, fixtures and equipment, Hindman said.

Council members told Perdue to pursue “value engineering” with the desired bidder.

Value engineering occurs when the city and the construction company agree, for example, to substitute fake stone for real stone to get the project down to a cost both sides can agree on, city officials said. If that approach fails, then council members said they would consider seeking new bids, possibly asking for lower-priced options.

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