Construction bids for remaking downtown Fresno’s Fulton Mall came in last month considerably over budget, but City Hall staff are confident they can make the low bid match up with cash on hand and they recommend the city move ahead on the project.
City Council members will take up the matter at the Dec. 3 meeting. Between now and then, Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s staff will be busy with the budget knife, cutting here and trimming there, with the goal of returning cars to the six-block stretch of downtown that has been a pedestrian mall for more than 50 years.
Swearengin thinks the gap can be closed on one of the signature projects of her time in office.
From the administration’s perspective, there is still a little work to do, but we are cautiously optimistic we can recommend the council award the contract.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin
“From the administration’s perspective, there is still a little work to do, but we are cautiously optimistic we can recommend the council award the contract,” she said. “There are cost-saving measures that can be identified. Those cost-saving measures can get the project down to the amount of dollars that are appropriated.”
At $23.05 million, American Paving had the lowest of three bids for the project. The other two bidders were Lewis C. Nelson at $23.3 million and Granite Construction at $27.68 million.
Right off , the city is eliminating a bid alternative that will save around $600,000. That takes American Paving’s bid to $22.4 million. The cash on hand for the project – around $20 million – means City Hall now needs to either cut around $2.4 million from the proposal or find some additional revenue. It looks like the city isn’t counting on the latter.
“We have to do it with the resources we have available,” Swearengin said.
That is a combination of local, state and federal dollars. No city general fund money can be used.
So the city will cut. That means, for instance, where 20 bicycle racks may be in the bid, now the city might simply ask for 10. Or maybe direction signs that would, for instance, point the way to Chukchansi Park, might fall by the wayside. It will be a tedious, line-by-line exercise.
What won’t be touched, Swearengin insisted, is the $5 million slated for restoration and preservation of the mall’s fountains and art work.
“Those are 100 percent funded, and it must be,” she said. “It’s a treasure.”
If the city ultimately cannot match the project cost with the dollars available, it can walk away.
“That is our ultimate safeguard,” Swearengin said. “If we can’t identify cost savings or additional appropriations, we would cancel the contract and be back at square one.”
Swearengin, however, is betting differently. She is confident ground breaking on the project will proceed in January.