The new Atascadero Library will not be open in time for the city’s centennial as its backers had hoped, because of a dispute over who should get the job of completing the construction work.
A three-member committee headed by General Services Director Janette Pell is recommending that the Board of Supervisors start the bidding process all over again.
The original goal was to start the project this month, with plans to open late this year as part of the city’s 100th birthday. Now, construction won’t start until at least July, pushing the opening to early 2014.
“Our community through the Friends of the Library worked tirelessly to build our library in time for our centennial,” Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley said. “I wish the county was more diligent on this community priority.”
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Friends of the Atascadero Library, the nonprofit group that has been working toward a larger library since the 1980s, also expressed frustration. “We are very disappointed that construction has not been able to go forward this month,” Friends President Grenda Ernst said.
Pell acknowledged that the delay “has understandably caused great disappointment to the Friends of the Atascadero Library and the community at large.”
“This is a great project,” she said.
Pell told The Tribune she will ask the County Board on April 16 to reject all current bids and start over, with the new bids to be returned by May 16 and construction beginning, she hopes, in July. The contract would be to complete interior improvements to an existing building on Capistrano Avenue.
In the previous round, the two lowest bidders on the multi-million dollar project were within $21,000 of each other. Maino Construction Co. had the low bid, at $2,819,000. Santa Margarita Construction Corp. came in at $2,840,000.
Santa Margarita Construction Corp. challenged the award to Maino.
Pell convened an ad hoc three-member “Protest Hearing Board” to sort it out. It was only the second time in her five years as director that such a board has been convened, she told The Tribune in an email. Other members were Deputy County Counsel Patrick Foran and Jeff Werst, a design engineer from the Department of Public Works.
The hearing board met for several hours March 12 before making its recommendation, Pell said.
Pell said the reasons for the suggested delay were complex and technical but centered on whether Maino listed a steel subcontractor. Supervisors will explore that angle when they meet.
Library backers intend to move the library from Morro Road to a larger, now empty, 20,000-square-foot building at 6555 Capistrano Ave. in downtown Atascadero.
The county will have 32 percent of the space and create a North County Services Center on part of the second floor.
The library portion will double the size of the current library and add areas for youth programs and more computers with public Internet access.