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Visitor center cost may top $1.5M
The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency met Tuesday night to ponder spending money to renovate the Coos Bay Visitor Center. They also considered spending part of the money to clear title of some disputed waterfront properties with the Oregon Department of Lands. World Photo by Lou Sennick

COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency awarded the construction contract for its Visitor Information Center on Tuesday, but the price will be higher than expected.

Harmon Construction of Coos Bay had the apparent low bid of $1.18 million, followed by Tom E. Gayewski of Coos Bay, with $1.2 million, and DLB Construction of Coos Bay, with $1.25 million.

Adding contingency, architect, loan financing and building permits, the city is set to spend as much as $1.53 million to upgrade its visitor center.

The agency had previously set its limit for repairing the building at $1.2 million, but it rose with additions like solar panels and repaving nearby roads.

Mayor Jeff McKeown said the price was a tough pill to swallow, but moving forward was important.

"This will be a big statement in our downtown corridor," he said. "I'm not happy with how we got here, but it's a good investment for our community."

The Urban Renewal Agency has the same members as the city council, though technically the group acts as a separate board.

Councilor Joanie Johnson was the one vote against approving the contract. She said the project had been scaled too far back and wouldn't be able to house a variety of agencies, including the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and South Coast Development Council. She also wasn't happy that an interior bathroom was removed from the original plans.

"It isn't large enough for what we wanted," she said.

Other members of the agency were concerned about costs rising further still.

Architect Mike Crow said his only concern is with the foundation. When McKeown asked if the contingency could cover any unforeseen foundation expenses, Crow said he thought so, but he didn't know.

"I have no way of knowing what's under that site," he said.

The agency added to the expense of the repairs by accepting seven additional projects on top of the base bid submitted by contractors. The add-ons included paving on Central Avenue, solar panels, double doors to two lobby entrances, heavy timber interior trusses, tiled floors and a brick wainscot.

McKeown initially proposed only the first three additions, noting the city could get grants to reduce the cost of solar panels by half.

But agency member Mark Daily insisted the other projects were inexpensive enough to warrant inclusion for aesthetics' sake.

"We wanted this to be a centerpiece, and it's not much more for the other alternatives," he said.

The cost of the first three additions from Harmon added up to $154,150. The last four cost $27,400.

Councilors were pleased the contract went to a local contractor after the city went with an out-of-state firm to build a fire station. The city nearly had to hire Diversified Contractors of Klamath Falls, which put in a bid of $1.05 million. But the company didn't provide a sub-contractors list in time and the city considered the bid incomplete.

Visitor Center operations will shift to the Hub Building while construction is under way. Joyce Jansen, the city's economic and community development manager, said the visitor center would be vacated starting next week. Construction will begin in about a month, said City Manager Chuck Freeman.

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