Work can now begin on the project, which has been in progress since fall 2015, when commissioners went under contract for a trio of properties along Gay Road totaling about 3 acres.
“This is one of the key items on our master plan,” said Recreation Director Rusty Ellis. “We’re excited about it. The public’s excited about it as well.”
When the county first purchased the land, it estimated spending $50,000 to $75,000 on developing it into a park with a paved walking trail, picnic pavilion and restrooms. The current project scope is somewhat larger, including a playground and more robust pavilion and bathrooms. In addition, construction costs have risen over the last few years, and with contractors staying busy with other, larger projects, it’s proven difficult to get the Savannah Park concept off the ground.
In fact, the county had meant to have the Savannah Park project done long before now, originally opening bids for the project in September 2017. However, only one company bid on the project, so the county then reached out to various local contractors and asked if they’d be interested in bidding on the project if it came open again.
“They’re just so busy they can’t bid right now,” County Manager Don Adams told commissioners during a Sept. 12, 2017, work session.
If the county could hold off a few months, it might have better luck next time, he said. Commissioners agreed, and the county waited until spring to send out another request for bids. Yet again, only one bid was received, but it was lower than the September amount. After delaying the opening two weeks to solicit more bids and still only having one to work with, the county wound up approving the bid from Whittier-based Buchanan and Sons Inc.
While lower than the price a different company had quoted in September, the bid was significantly higher than the $250,000 the county had set aside for the park. The company offered to do the work for $303,100, and that figure didn’t include installing a well, picnic shelter or playground. The county plans to hire independent contractors for the well, picnic shelter and playground, which combined will cost about $62,000. The additional $150,000 commissioners added to the project budget will cover costs over $250,000, design and soft costs that have already been spent and contingency.
The county will sign construction contracts with specific timelines next week, Ellis said, but work is expected to begin by the end of August and last 60 to 90 days, weather permitting. If all goes as planned, the park should be ready to go by Thanksgiving.
The Savannah Park project is part of an ongoing effort to install a park in each Jackson County community. Commissioners have discussed building a park in the Qualla/Whittier area as the next step toward that goal.