After rejecting a series of construction bids that came in significantly higher than had been expected, the Forest Park Park District board of commissioners scaled back its renovation plans and is now set to begin the first phase of its five year improvement project.

Year one of the project will include renovations to Building 4 at the park district, located at Sansone Drive and Hannah Avenue. The building, home to the park’s summer camp and after school programs, will receive new carpeting, upgraded air conditioning and heating systems, and renovated bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to park district Executive Director David Novak. A new entryway will also be installed on the west side of the building.

To reduce costs, the new bathrooms will have two sinks instead of three, and the building’s roof will be repaired instead of replaced. The project will be handled by the Hinsdale based Loungs Construction Corporation at a cost of $108,001. Novak said that the three other bids received by the district ranged from about $127,000 to $130,000.

“The three other companies were more construction manager companies, where they have backgrounds in the trade but have no employees of their own other than people on the site watching others work. Loungs actually has workers in various parts of the trade, and if they have to they bring in subcontractors,” said Novak.

The work on Building 4 was originally estimated to cost about $100,000, but the first round of bids came in between $147,000 and $162,000, according to Novak. Soaring construction costs due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina were cited as one reason for the unexpected costs. After the plans were revised, the project was estimated to cost about $112,000.

“We’re still keeping a construction schedule beginning on March 27 and we’re hoping to be done on June 2 which will give us enough time for the building to be used for summer recreation programs,” said Novak. Before and after school programs will take place in the district’s main administrative building, 7501 Harrison St., during construction.

Year one of the project will also include a new walking trail and installation of the district’s new skate park, as well as already completed renovations to the park’s waterslides.

The total cost for the year will be $234,500, according to Novak. The project will be funded by $250,000 from the district’s capital fund and $27,000 in ADA funding, giving the district $42,500 to carry over into year two of the project.

In year two, renovations to the main building, also known as Building 1, will begin. Additions there will include a new entry way lobby, an elevator tower, ADA compliant restrooms and new offices and a board meeting room.

A 42-inch high safety handrail system will also be added to create an observation deck and outdoor meeting area overlooking the park’s aquatic center.

Though some minor work on Building 1, which would have cost about $60,000, was originally planned for the first year of the project, this work was moved to the second year in order to cut costs.

“A lot of the money was tied up in them bringing scaffolding in and staging the scaffolding. They had to do it in year one and again in year two,” Novak said.

After a presentation from Scott Triphan of W-T Engineering, the park board agreed at its meeting last Thursday to seek a construction manager for the project. “We might pay a little more for the manager’s services but in the long run we’ll get more competitive prices,” said Novak.

“We get to shop every little component of every job we do,” said Triphan, who will select three potential construction managers for the board to interview in the near future.

Though the entire five year project was originally budgeted at $2,222,350, Novak said that the district does not plan to formulate a new five year budget, and will instead take the project “one year at a time.”