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Windsor, Ontario to build $66 million library, pool for 2013 International Children's Games

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by Ron Stang

The City of Windsor, Ontario is proceeding with a new combination library and aquatic centre, estimated at $66.3 million, for the 2013 International Children's Games. The executive director of the Windsor Construction Association fears the timeline is short.

Windsor city hall is proceeding with a new combination library and aquatic centre within a timeline those in the construction industry fear may be a little too short.

The estimated $66.3 million 130,000 square foot centre would fill a huge two block open space on prime land in downtown Windsor, originally expropriated more than two decades ago to build a new city arena.

The arena eventually was constructed on the city’s east side in 2008. And while there have been numerous alternate proposals for the downtown vacant land — from an aquarium to urban canal with upscale shops — none have come to fruition.

The city decided to go with the aquatic centre after snagging the designation as host city for the August 2013 International Children’s Games, a kind of kids Olympics. At the same time, it decided to combine the centre with a new central library building.

The centre itself would have a 50 metre Olympic pool and dive tank, as well as family-oriented features such as water slides and a wave pool, though final details have to be worked out. But the way the process has been handled has raised concerns in the local construction sector.

Jim Lyons, executive director of the Windsor Construction Association, said the fact construction is not scheduled to begin until January and is expected to wrap up in summer 2013 is very tight.

“Our people are really concerned because there’s so much to be done and so little time,” he said.

Compounding the situation is the fact the city revamped its RFP process, losing even more time.

The city this summer put out an RFP for firms that had experience designing pools but which could also act as an overall consultant on the project. It obtained six bids.

City councillor Drew Dilkens, who heads the aquatic centre committee, said that because of the “compressed time line” the city wanted someone with these overlapping skills.

He said the objective was to award the project to someone who could “throw ideas on the table” or “say, if you do this it’s going to cost you $400,000 but if you try this one it’s only $200,000 and it gets you the same effect.”

But no bid met those criteria, he said.

So the city cancelled the RFP and hired Wisconsin-based aquatic facility experts Ramaker & Associates Inc., whose resume includes a new waterpark at Vermont’s Jay Peak and Wisconsin’s Kalahari Resort. Ramaker also has expertise in civil engineering and building design.

Company vice president Daryl Matzke, who has been in Windsor working with city officials and community stakeholders, said this is the firm’s first combination library and aquatic centre. “Combined together, yes,” he said. “Have we done them separately — absolutely.”

The city is now putting together a new RFP that is aimed at design-build contractors only. But prior to that it will be asking builders with expertise to come forward.

Windsor will provide Ramaker’s “baseline document” or Owner Statement of Requirements (OSR) to an approved short list and they will be invited to bid.

The new RFP went out after Sept. 30. City council will decide on the builder by Dec. 5 “at the latest,” Dilkens said.

Lyons said some of those who bid in the earlier RFP are upset because they had “put in some money and time into their proposals,” in some cases as much as $10 – $15,000.

“They got a letter just saying thanks for being part of the process, you didn’t meet our criteria,” he said.

But Lyons said he has seen “what (these contractors) accomplished in the past. I don’t get it. I took some phone calls from some very upset people.”

Lyons participated this month in a stakeholder charette for the project and wishes the city well.

“That’s all wonderful,” he said. “Hopefully it will happen and in August (2013) we’re going to be able to open the doors for the facility and be proud.”

But he said there are definite hurdles.

Starting the job in “the middle of winter” is not optimum for excavating and a wet spring could delay the project. This past spring’s rains caused more than 40 days in construction delays, he said. “That’s significant.”

Dilkens said the 18 month timeline is the same as the city had for building its new arena and the aquatic project has “less work to do overall.”

But, said Lyons, the arena “had drawings already done. They don’t have drawings now. It’s design-build.”

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