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Low bid for new pools leaves funds for extras

Spokane residents will get more than promised in six new pools expected to open next year.

The winning bid to build the pools, from Graham Construction & Management, Inc. of Spokane, was $2.8 million less than expected, allowing the Spokane Park Board to add $1.1 million in pool extras, including classrooms at Witter and Liberty pools, and slides and lights at all six locations.

“We weren’t sure we were going to get all these things,” said parks director Barry Russell. “Fortunately, we came in under (budget).”

The Spokane Park Board voted unanimously Tuesday for Graham’s package, which was the lowest proposal. Two other firms bid to build the city’s pools, which make up about half of a parks tax package approved by city voters last year.

Even with the extras, the city will pay $20.2 million – $1.7 million less than predicted. Leftover money could be used to bulk up other parts of the bond proposal, including a sports complex adjacent to Joe Albi Stadium.

Administrators said the favorable bids likely were driven by the slow economy.

“There’s not a lot of construction activity going on, so I think we have a pretty good climate for contractors to bid,” said Park Board member Ross Kelley, Spokane County’s retired engineer. “They’re interested in keeping their people employed.”

To get a head start, the city’s pools have closed earlier then usual so demolition can begin. Russell said the department still is working to get permits to allow construction.

Park Board members have worked to ensure the pools will open next summer. Some of the savings from the contract bid might be used to erect tents over some of the tanks in late winter or early spring so they can be heated enough to start tiling, Russell said.

Jeff Halstead, chairman of the citizens committee overseeing park bond spending, said the new pools will be family friendly with play features while maintaining lanes for lap swimming.

“They combine the best of the old with some of the best of the new,” Halstead said.