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Trotter renovation bids far exceed planned budget

 

Trotter renovation contract winner Major Andrews IV, left, and Mayor Robert Smith

Trotter renovation contract winner Major Andrews IV, left, and Mayor Robert Smith

 

 

Nathan Gregory

 

Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said there are no plans to re-open bids for the renovation of the Trotter Convention Center after all three bids for the project were more than double the $1.65 million construction budget. 

 

Smith said he and city officials are assessing other options. 

 

Sealed bids from local contractors Weather's Construction, Starkville-based Renrock Construction and Kenneth Thompson Builders out of Greenwood were opened Feb. 10. In December, city project manager Robyn Eastman of J5/Broaddus said councilmen would select a contractor during the meeting following the bid openings, which would have been Tuesday. They did not discuss the matter, however. 

 

Weather's Construction submitted the lowest bid of $3,371,000. Kenneth Thompson Builder's bid was $3.6 million. Renrock Construction submitted a bid of $3,791,000. 

 

The city took out a $2 million loan from the Mississippi Development Bank to finance the project in August and planned to pay loans and interest back with fees Columbus Light & Water will pay in lieu of property taxes over a 15-20 year period. It was then that councilmen also awarded the design contract to Major Andrews IV, a local architect who started Major Design Studio last year. The remaining $350,000 in the project budget included $80,000 for Andrews, $99,000 for J5/Broaddus and a $126,000 contingency fund.  

 

Eastman could not be reached for comment. In August he said the city's project management firm would ensure construction costs did not exceed $1.65 million. 

 

Andrews said after the bids were opened he spoke with contractors to find out why the bids ran high but was not sure specifically what contributed to the amounts. He said his next step is to meet with the convention center's renovation committee to receive more feedback. 

 

"We just have to get a better understanding of what items we need to focus on as opposed to some of the other items," Andrews said. "We're just looking at the numbers and seeing what happened. We're trying to discuss a way to move forward." 

 

Currently, the project consists of two phases. Phase one involves exterior improvements including the addition of restrooms and a new courtyard near the main entrance. The second phase addresses interior upgrades, including a new ceiling, floor tile and lighting as well as a new elevator and upgrades to the facility's sound system. It is not yet known whether any of those components may be removed to keep the project within budget constraints, Andrews said.  

 

Smith said no more moves will be made until he discusses alternatives with councilmen.

 

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.

 

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