QUEENSBURY - One of Warren County's two most ambitious construction projects in recent decades apparently is bearing a pleasant surprise to area taxpayers: it's likely to cost far less than anticipated.
Construction on the county's new three-story Human Services building, now under way, is presently $2 million under budget - and the numbers have been getting better week by week, county administrator Hal Payne said Monday.
Building construction alone was originally estimated at $15.5 million, and the total cost, including furnishings, site preparation and engineering, was expected to be $19 million.
But the figures are now $2 million lower, Payne said.
Project overseer Fred Austin said this savings was not only unexpected and encouraging, but remarkable.
"In my 28 years with Warren County, this is the first time I've ever seen a project come in this far under budget," he said. For decades, Austin served as superintendent of public works. He retired in the mid-1990s.
Structural steel, originally priced at $1.3 million, was delivered for $1.3 million, Austin said.
Heating and ventilating materials and labor, budgeted for $2.2 million, is now expected to cost $1.4 million, he said.
Electrical work and data wiring also was contracted for less than original estimates, he added.
Austin credited the hefty savings not only to the economic slump, but to the project's "core team"consisting of county supervisors headed up by former Thurman Supervisor John Haskell, the project engineers, Clark Patterson & Lee, and the construction managers Bovis Lend Lease, Inc.
The team's idea of acting as general contractors, and divvying up construction work into 15 different contracted bids, saved the county much of the $2 million, Austin said.
"This way, we were able to receive very, very competitive bids from people really looking for work," he said. "John Haskell and his committee did a marvelous job of shepherding this through," he said. "They were always looking for the bottom line."
Haskell served as county facilities committee chair until he left office in November. Serving on his committee through 2008 were Frank Thomas of Stony Creek, Sterling Goodspeed of Johnsburg, Fred Champagne and William VanNess of Queensbury, and Mike O'Connor and Dan Girard of Glens Falls. Austin and county superintendent of buildings Frank Morehouse worked closely with the group.
Haskell worked tirelessly on the project, scrutinizing details of plans, engineering reports and bid specifications for two years, Austin said. At one point, Haskell guaranteed the county board of supervisors it would be under budget and on time. Tuesday, Haskell said he was pleased with the outcome to date.
"The hours we spent on this project was unreal," he said. "For me, it was a once in a lifetime deal, and I wanted it to be a success - now apparently it is working out, considering the substantial savings."
Austin said the first layer of roof is now on the 60,000-plus square-feet building, and the structural steel work is now complete. The concrete work is now under way for the elevators and stairs. The building is likely to be completed by December, he said.
County budget officer Kevin Geraghty said the $2 million savings would be useful in offsetting increased expenses over which the county has minimal control.
"I'm urging caution, that regardless of the savings, we need to continue to make government smaller in Warren County," he said.