Riverside park project bids come in almost $2 million over estimates

The City of Riverside is in a good news-bad news situation in its parks department.

Riverside parks director Noel Challis was the bearer of bad news at the most recent board of aldermen meeting, Tuesday, May 7, when presenting an update on work at E.H. Young Riverfront Park. The city had budgeted about $2.1 million for construction of a “destination park,” but recently received construction bids. The lowest bid, submitted by Gunter Construction, was for almost $2.8 million, not including work on the planned playground area and additional work including landscaping and lighting.

“That brings us to a total, over budget, of 1.9 million dollars, which is not great news,” Challis said.

The estimates presented in January did not include about $626,000 in improvements, including mobilization fees, stormwater infrastructure, annual maintenance and other items – an oversight Challis said was made by staff and landscape architect Confluence. Additionally, site grading came in higher than expected by more than $100,000, primarily due to the inclusion of additional fill dirt for flood protection. Planned pickle ball court construction bids came in $243,000 higher than expected, in part due to the requirement of a specialized surface. Dog park fencing came in about $25,000 over planned budgets as well.

Phase two projects are also coming in with a higher price tag than expected, with the sprayground and traditional playground area coming in approximately $280,000 higher than expected. Challis said there is room in these projects to negotiate with contractors. Concrete trail construction and native landscaping came in high as well.

Challis said some of this overage could be offset by shifting funds from phase three and phase four plans, or by eliminating some elements of the planned park, such as bridge modifications, landscaping, signage and other elements.

Aldermen expressed concerns about spending millions in the park only to have the Missouri River destroy the work in a future flood event, with one alderman suggesting the board completely scratch the project and start over.

Mayor Kathy Rose isn’t ready to throw in the towel, however. During planning of the park project, Riverside officials sought input from the local community and with the approval of the plans promised residents a “world-class environment” in the park, named for Red X founder and city forefather E.H. Young.

“I’m not justifying the higher amount, I’m justifying that we have a commitment to the community that we should seriously consider,” Rose said.

Rose said the most recent flood was a good learning experience for the city and the delay of phases three and four would allow the bulk of the park project to be completed and for residents to use the dog parks, pickle ball courts and other amenities sooner rather than later.

Alderman Jill Hammond was concerned about Confluence’s initial estimate, which apparently left out several key elements of the project. She asked what went wrong in the estimate, and if Confluence had any obligation to the city to correct its error.

“Confluence hasn’t had much to say about it, unfortunately,” Challis said. “I think they just missed the mark on several things.”

The park’s location on the banks of the Missouri River came up several times during the discussion, with board members concerned about spending millions in the park only to lose it within a few years.

City engineer Travis Hoover said the infrastructure planned in the park was designed to be located in a flood plain and withstand river water, with some elements located on higher ground or raised for further protection. Landscaping would be killed by standing water, and sediment left behind, but the structures in the park would be in no danger of washing away, he said.

Board members drew both positive and negative comparisons to English Landing Park in neighboring Parkville, which draws tourism and events and also regularly floods.

The board agreed to discuss the budget overage at a future meeting and may schedule a special meeting to address the situation.

In good news, the trail systems in southern Platte County will continue to grow due to the efforts of Riverside and Kansas City.

The Riverside Board of Aldermen recently heard an update on the partnership project from Challis. Previously, the city partnered with Kansas City and Platte County to build the Line Creek Trail. Now, the city is working to connect the Vivion Road Trail from the Interurban Trail at St. Joe Boulevard to Mulberry Drive.

“These partnerships are working well to tie the communities together with this popular trail system,” Challis said.

This section of the Vivion Road Trail is approximately one mile long, with the overall Vivion Road Trail system planned to connect Riverside, Kansas City, Gladstone and Claycomo. The segment is expected to be completed by spring 2021.

The $1.2 million project is funded in part through a federal transportation grant, which will pick up $500,000. The remainder will be split between Riverside and Kansas City.