At a special meeting of the Wentzville Board of Aldermen on Wednesday night, the board considered their options after hearing that the Splash Station aquatic park construction project had incurred $190,074 in cost overruns.
That figure was a considerable increase from the $90,000 figure mentioned at their last meeting in December 2012 when the board was first informed that excavations had run into rock that hadn't been indicated in geological surveys.
At that time, work continued and additional rock "anomalies" were found, Interim Public Works Director Doug Lee told the board, resulting in additional expenditures for a total of $190,074.
After viewing photos of the excavations, City Attorney Paul Rost commented, "It doesn't appear to be an anomaly, it's everywhere."
Ward 3 Alderman Rick Stokes said that he called the special meeting when he heard about the additional overruns earlier this week.
"I want to make sure the public knows we are on the hook for this money," Stokes said. "Somehow a decision was made to dig before we decided if it was a bad idea. Giving us a change order to approve an amount after it’s been spent is a waste of time. When do we call it quits?"
Interim City Administrator George Kolb defended the decision to continue the work.
"In any project, you are dealing with the unknown. You establish sizable project contingencies to work through those issues that may come up," Kolb said. "A good project might not spend any. Sometimes when your best plans are laid out, you still run into problems. To stop and redesign, we would have spent much more."
Kolb said that they were seeing "the light at the end of the tunnel" with the rock excavation, which should finish up this week.
"We’re dipping our toe into the the possibility of moving this park to another site," Ward 2 Alderman Chris Gard said. "I do question whether at this stage of the game it’s more responsible to taxpayers to just continue, to just find the dollars somewhere else."
At Gard's suggestion, the board approved a motion to adopt a $250,000 cap on rock removal. At that point, work must stop until the board approves any further expenditures.
The $5,850,000 Splash Station project budget included $292,500 in contingency funds to deal with unexpected costs. The parks department listed several options they would add to the park with the money if it wasn't used, including sprays for the lazy river, a dive platform and decorative concrete.
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