A long-sought makeover of Libertyville's downtown Metra commuter station will be delayed for several months because of surprisingly high bids for the work.
Village officials -- as well as the architect who determined what elements would fit within a $1.1 million budget -- said they were startled when the lowest of seven bids was more than double what was expected. The low bid for what is regarded as a gateway downtown project was $2.39 million.
Trustees on Oct. 24 board are expected to reject the bids and determine how best to proceed.
"The board is going to have to decide what the right next steps are," said Village Administrator Chris Clark. "It's a project that may (need) a whole different look."
The downtown station is only 800 square feet and has no restrooms. Village leaders have described it as ugly and not in keeping with the character of the community or on par with some other stations along the Milwaukee District North Line.
Construction was expected to start this fall. But the need to rework the plan and have Metra review and sign off before new bids are sought, considered and approved, shifts a potential groundbreaking well into next year.
Clark reported the news Tuesday at the end of the village board meeting. Also in attendance was Rick Swanson, the Lake Forest developer who was contracted to design the station and has done or is working on other projects in town.
"I was very adamant with him about our disappointment with the bids for this," said Mayor Terry Weppler.
The village has budgeted $800,000 from commuter parking funds and Metra is contributing $300,000 toward the project. Since there is no flexibility in those numbers, the overage of the bids means something has to give.
The station design included elements and materials that will have to be dropped or modified. For example, a preliminary village analysis drops the cost of carpentry from $287,685 to $140,000 by using trusses, making the roof smaller and removing a covered walkway.
Swanson on Wednesday said a combination of things drove the cost but "adjustments can be made to assure the revised version is every bit as attractive" as the original design. A number of elements were "either over designed or unnecessary" such as a radiant heat snow melt system and architectural detailing, he added.
Swanson is pursuing final approvals for the nearby Station Square townhouse/apartment project. He said the train station is a key element of that plan and offered to do whatever work necessary at his own cost.
"I have a vested interest in this station on many levels and it's important to me this is done right," he told the village board. "I won't let you down."
Whether he'll get the chance is undetermined, as some trustees called for a fresh start.
"We're still deciding that," Clark said.
Trustee Donna Johnson said the design was "very, very attractive" but the high bids presented a reality check.
"We have to think about what kind of design realistically will draw the bids that are within our budget," she said.