WINCHESTER — Rising construction costs and design changes have driven up the cost for new City Yards facilities by about $5 million.
Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach told City Council on Tuesday that officials originally estimated that constructing a new maintenance building in City Yards, located at 301 E. Cork St., would cost $9 million.
In the nearly three years that have passed since the project was approved by council, construction costs have climbed by 25%, adding $2,250,000 to its budget.
“We planned it three years ago, so a rise in costs is to be expected,” council Vice President Evan Clark said.
Also adding to the costs are additional proposed amenities — a noise-buffering wall on the east side of City Yards, a new Winchester Emergency Operations Center, a building to wash vehicles, a pedestrian bridge over Town Run, a backup generator and more — that city officials had hoped to build in conjunction with the maintenance facility. Those extras added about $2.8 million to the price tag, raising the project’s total cost to $14,014,000.
When the maintenance building and related add-ons were sent out to bid last summer, only one company, Lantz Construction Co. of Winchester, responded. Lantz said it could do the work for $13,564,000.
Eisenach asked council on Tuesday how it would like to proceed — accept Lantz’s bid for the full project, or pare down amenities so the cost will be closer to the original $9 million estimate.
Since the maintenance facility has already been approved, council was not required to vote again. However, the majority consensus was to have Eisenach return to a future council meeting for further discussions, which could lead to the city sending the project out to bid for a second time.
In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting and work session, City Council:
Voted 7-0-1 to approve an additional $1.5 million appropriation to Winchester Public Schools for construction of the new Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, which will be housed in the former John Kerr Elementary School at 536 Jefferson St. The school system already has $15 million to cover the renovation and improvement costs — $13.3 million from general obligation bonds issued by City Council, and the remainder from private donations and fundraisers — but design changes and price fluctuations caused the project’s budget to climb to $17.3 million. Councilor Bill Wiley abstained from Tuesday’s vote because his employer, Howard Shockey and Sons Inc. of Winchester, is a contractor for the project. Councilor Judy McKiernan, an employee of Winchester Public Schools, voted in favor of the additional funding after saying her participation would not pose a conflict of interest.
Voted 7-0-1 to forward a proposed election schedule for the Winchester School Board, which will transition from an appointed body to an elected one on Jan. 1. McKiernan abstained from the vote due to a potential conflict of interest.
Agreed to table, at the applicants’ requests, four proposals to grant tax-exempt status to properties owned by local nonprofit organizations. Councilors voted unanimously to table requests from Shenandoah Valley Community Residences Inc. and AIDS Response Effort Inc.; 7-1 to table the request from Winchester Little Theatre, with Councilor John Willingham opposing the measure; and 5-3 to table the request from the Retired Clergy Housing Corporation of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, with Willingham, Wiley and Mayor David Smith opposing the measure.
Held discussions on whether council should investigate complaints filed by city employees against the city manager and city attorney, and if council should hear appeals from department heads regarding disciplinary actions taken against them by the city manager. No votes were taken, and councilors indicated they would continue discussions at a future meeting.
Unanimously agreed to name the new neighborhood park at the corner of South Kent and East Cecil streets the Ruth Jackson Memorial Park. Jackson was the original owner of Ruth’s Tea Room, which operated at that location from 1925 to 2005.
Voted 7-1 to approve a series of state-mandated amendments to city zoning ordinances regarding small-cell telecommunications facilities. Wiley opposed the measure due to concerns about how the antennae will look if mounted on historic buildings.
Unanimously approved a resolution asking Virginia’s governor and General Assembly to reconsider wastewater treatment regulations that could require Winchester to spend millions of dollars on treatment plant upgrades.
Held a first reading of a proposed amendment to City Code that would allow Winchester to use first-class mail, rather than certified letters, when notifying people to remove excess trash and garbage from their properties.
Held a first reading of a proposed ordinance to vacate and convey 1,607 square feet of city-owned property at 520 Meadow Branch Ave. to an adjoining property owner, in exchange for the applicant paying the city for the land’s currently assessed value.
Unanimously agreed to forward a conditional-use permit (CUP) request from Evan Riggleman to use a home he rents at 346 Virginia Ave. as a short-term rental property for travelers that use online booking services such as Airbnb and Craigslist.
Took no action on a CUP request to allow an accessory structure in the front yard at 1644-1660 S. Braddock St. The applicant, PRS Development Services Inc., withdrew the request prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.
Heard a presentation on short-term rental properties in Winchester.
Met in a special executive session for 1 hour 20 minutes to discuss appointments to local boards and committees, and finding an interim or permanent replacement for City Manager Eden Freeman, who has resigned effective March 16 to become deputy city manager of Greenville, South Carolina. No action was taken following the closed-door meeting.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and work session at Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and councilors John Willingham, Kim Herbstritt, Judy McKiernan, Bill Wiley and Corey Sullivan. Councilor Les Veach was absent.