Franklin Rogers Park file photo

MANKATO — Bids on the initial phase of improvements at Franklin Rogers Ballpark were approved by the City Council Monday, paving the way for construction to start as hoped this month.

The bids for artificial turf, field grading, construction of dugouts, bathrooms and other upgrades amounted to $3.1 million, higher than previous estimates of $2.6 million for the first phase.

The council expressed concerns at the rising price, saying the new figures could eat into contingency funds meant to cover any unforeseen costs down the road.

“To see this much of an overrun before we’ve done anything concerns me greatly,” said Mayor Eric Anderson.

He asked what options were available to rein in the cost, adding he didn’t see much room to put a dent in it based on the plans and bidding figures available.

Jeff Johnson, director of public works, said approval of the bids would allow city staff to negotiate with project engineers, architects and the contractors to bring down costs on certain portions of the project in the coming weeks. He named bid package two, which includes construction of the buildings, as an option for negotiation.

“What I’m referring to when I’m talking about negotiating is altering bid number two to something more constructible,” he said.

Bid package two was awarded to Mankato-based WEB Construction, Inc. for about $1.6 million.

The higher than expected price figure also stemmed from bidding on the grading of the field and installation of the turf, or bid package 1B, said City Manager Pat Hentges.

Soil condition was poorer than expected at the site, which could require more field work before the artificial turf is installed by AstroTurf LLC. The Georgia-based company was awarded the bid package 1A for $480,704. Dirt Merchant, Inc., of Mankato, was awarded the grading, base and drainage work for $1.03 million.

“We’re tight,” Hentges said of the bidding. “But in bid package two we’re going to look at it to see if there’s value and changes in that.”

The higher cost also includes additions to the project like a $176,450 cost for a berm and ramp and $24,950 for a portable mound system for softball.

The Mankato MoonDogs will be the main tenants of the ballpark, but the improvements were explored in part as a way to expand its usage to youth teams.

The sales tax extension approved last year by voters provides the funding source for the improvements. Construction is slated to begin this month with an expectation to be completed in time for the MoonDogs season in summer 2018.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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