Overseer is named for Colorado dam project

The first major project funded under last year’s Bend Park & Recreation District bond measure took a step forward Tuesday, with the district’s board of directors hiring a contractor to oversee the construction of the Colorado Avenue Dam safe passage through completion.

Hamilton Construction of Springfield was awarded a construction manager/general contractor contract, an arrangement that will have Hamilton working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies and the engineers designing the project over the next several months. Once the design is set and regulatory issues are addressed, Hamilton will provide the district with a guaranteed maximum price for construction of the project.

The project will convert the area into a three-channel system with separate areas designed for safe passage, whitewater play and a wildlife/fish corridor.

Tuesday’s bid award grants Hamilton $52,900, while the overall estimated cost of the safe passage project is estimated at $7.3 million. The project is expected to break ground in spring 2014 and be completed by spring 2015.

Chelsea Schneider with the park district told the board Hamilton will work with local contractor Jack Robinson and Sons for the duration of the project. By being involved from the design stage onward, Hamilton will be able to monitor the design and engineering of the project to ensure it can be constructed safely and on budget, she said.

“There’s unknowns now, and we felt we needed them on board to help guide what direction the design goes,” Schneider said.

Park district director Don Horton said views differ as to whether the CM/GC style of bidding a project is less expensive than going out for competitive bids at every stage of the process. However, in the case of the safe passage project, Horton said there is a risk that if design and engineering were to proceed without input from a contractor, the construction bids solicited at the end of that process could come in well over budget.

The award of the bid for the dam project came on the same night the board approved the district’s overall budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Like most governments in Oregon, the park district’s budget year begins on July 1 and ends June 30.

Due to the passage of last year’s $29 million bond and adjustments to reserve funds, the 2013-14 budget totals $72 million, as compared with last year’s $34 million budget. Most of the bond funds will not be spent during the upcoming year, however, and will remain in district accounts as the district works its way through the list of projects approved by voters.

The district expects to spend 8 percent more than last year. That doesn’t count bond-related funds and money generated through systems development charges (known as SDCs) assessed against new construction.

Much of the additional cost expected in the coming year is due to staffing increases that replace some of the positions cut in recent years. Park district staff declined from 92 full-time positions in 2009-10 to 83 in the current budget year; next year’s budget creates four new full-time positions.

Park district staff will be required to start chipping in to fund their health and retirement benefits, both of which have been significant drivers of the district’s personnel costs in recent years.

Beginning in the upcoming budget year, full-time employees will begin paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums and 25 percent of the premiums for their dependents — currently, the district picks up 100 percent of health insurance premiums for full-time employees, and such employees pay 20 percent of their dependents’ premiums.

Similar changes are in store for retirement benefits provided under the state’s Public Employees Retirement System.

On top of its own obligations to the PERS system, the district has also historically paid each employee’s obligation, an amount equal to 6 percent of each employee’s salary. Under the new district budget, employees would begin paying their own obligations, starting with 1 percent of salary and increasing by 1 percent per year over the next six years. New employees hired after July 1 would pay their full 6 percent obligation upon meeting PERS eligibility.

Employees are slated to receive cost of living increases of 1.6 percent and merit-based pay increases of up to 3 percent.

Due to a rebound in residential construction, the district expects revenue from SDCs to jump 27 percent in the upcoming year. Funds generated from SDCs are used to expand park facilities to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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