When Highland residents voted in November to support the city's plans for a new city building, they did not realize that the city could not afford the building.
Last month the City Council began advertising for bids on a 5,500-square-foot, two-story building. The bids are in, and the low bid is for $266,000 - far above the $150,000 the city has for the building."I'm surprised at the costs," Councilman Richard Westwood said during council meeting last week.
So now it appears that plans for the building, on which the council hoped construction would begin in spring, will have to be put on hold.
"Realistically it looks like we're a year away from doing anything," Councilman Roger Tracy said after analyzing the city's available funds for the project.
Tracy said that between this year's surplus, next year's surplus and anticipated revenue from leasing part of the building to the Highland Water Co., it would be hard for the city to come up with enough money to construct the building as presently planned.
City architect Vern Hancock recommended that the city either be its own contractor or negotiate with the contractors for a lower price for a compromise plan. Westwood said he favors talking to the contractors to see if compromises can be made, possibly changing the building's plans and then rebidding the project.
Kay Robinson, a local contractor, told the council that it was not practical to expect to cut more than $100,000 from the building's bids. He said the building's design calls for more money than the city has and architects probably did not know how much the city could spend when they designed the building.
"I think it would have been possible for them to design a building that would be functional for the city for the dollars available," Robinson said.
City Manager Jay Haws said the building was designed to meet the long-term needs of the city. He said any change in the plan to reduce costs would have a negative trade-off.
Mayor Larry Miller said it would be difficult to reduce the building's costs without compromising the future needs of the city. He said the council knew when they advertised for bids that the bids were probably going to be higher than they could afford. One reason for the bidding was to get an idea of how much money the city needed for the building.
"I think we've accomplished that, and I don't think we need to hang our heads in shame," Miller said.
The council decided to form a committee to analyze the building plans and see if changes can be made. The committee will also discuss possible reductions in the building's cost with the contractors.
Merlin Larson, a member of the Planning Commission, told the council that the city should either find enough money for the building or wait until it is available. He said that if the city scales down the building, it will never be satisfied and will have "regrets down the road."