Ridgefield council to vote on park bids

Overlook proposals too costly, interim city manager says; he'll advise rejection




The Ridgefield City Council will vote tonight on whether to accept bids on a long-delayed parks project that would strengthen ties between two of the city’s chief attractions — its downtown and wildlife refuge.

However, interim City Manager Paul Lewis said Wednesday he would recommend the council reject the two bids for Overlook Park — the lowest of which came in around $80,000 over an engineer’s estimates.

Should the council take Lewis’ advice, the city would likely seek bids in the fall, he said.

Overlook Park is a proposed welcome center and park overlooking the 5,218-acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. An engineer’s estimate pegged the cost of construction between $450,000 and $550,000, Lewis said. The low bid came in at $637,000.

Costs for design, archaeological monitoring, purchase of restrooms and other items would push the estimated price tag significantly higher, forcing the council to tap into restricted reserves if it voted to approve the lowest bid, Lewis said.

Ridgefield’s five-member council will vote during tonight’s meeting, which starts at 6:30 at the Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave.

“We don’t know if we’re going to accept the bids,” Mayor Ron Onslow said Tuesday. “They came in high, and we might have to adjust.”

The project recently received the go-ahead from the state’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and Department of Transportation, city officials said this week.

The state’s thumbs-up comes eight months after Portland-based Archaeological Investigations Northwest labeled the park a “significant site” for artifacts, leading state agencies to consider whether excavation was warranted or project changes were needed.

Overlook Park has been on the city’s radar since 2000, when a Seattle landscape architecture firm recommended the city build a welcome center to link its downtown and wildlife refuge.

At one point, Ridgefield officials said they had hoped work on the project would begin in early 2011. That goal came after artifacts used for cooking, as well as tools, were found at the park site.

Plans for the park include a plaza at the corner of Pioneer Street and Main Avenue. They also include a stage, community gathering area, kiosks with information about the city and refuge, and public restrooms.

City officials previously said the only digging at the proposed park would be for restrooms and sewer lines. State officials will monitor the project’s construction, Onslow said Tuesday.

Officials with the Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation did not return phone calls Tuesday or Wednesday.

Adding two members

As of June 30, Ridgefield has 5,210 residents, Lewis said Tuesday, citing Office of Financial Management statistics.

That means the city will have to expand from five to seven council members, in accordance with state law.

At tonight’s meeting, council members and city staff will discuss the process by which the city will receive applications and later appoint new members.

The state allows a city 90 days to appoint new members after it reaches the 5,000-resident threshold. That means Ridgefield must have its new members appointed by Sept. 28, or the county will step in and appoint them, Lewis said.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; http://www.facebook.com/raylegend; http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.