A project planned to redesign Memorial Park in northeast Brainerd will take place a year later than originally scheduled.

The Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board voted Tuesday, July 28, to postpone the estimated $1.3 million project until 2021 in hopes of getting better bids and fine-tuning designs.

“With the tight timeframe and the high numbers that we are seeing on our preliminary estimates, what is running through my head is, should we potentially release this for bid over the course of the winter with a summer 2021 project date, versus the 2020?” board member Kevin Yeager said Tuesday.

The parks board is working with WSB on the park designs but has learned the project might exceed the $1.3 million the city council allocated for it. The redesign comes after the city’s lease on Mill Avenue Park ends in 2021.

“Our vendor pool and the workforce out there is absolutely inundated with work,” Yeager said. “I believe this is a huge factor in why we’re seeing some of the numbers we are is bidder fatigue.”

With bids originally planned to be solicited within about three weeks, Yeager added postponing the project would give the board more time to flesh out plans for the park, like the possible inclusion of a splash pad, and give bidders more time to put estimates together.

A group of community members has worked for years to bring a splash pad to Brainerd and has so far raised $80,000, with the hope of placing the water structure at Memorial Park.

Waiting another few months doesn’t come without risks, though, Yeager noted.

“One could argue that it would even be busier in the spring, but notoriously people like to aggressively sign spring work during the winter time, and usually we will see lower numbers because of that,” he said. “... It just seems like we might be able to stretch the dollar a little bit further if we were to do that.”

Parks Director Tony Sailer noted the project does not necessarily need to be done this year, as the city’s lease on nearby Mill Avenue Park goes through March 1, 2021, which will allow for a full hockey season this winter.

The board also noted they would not have to staff two warming houses this winter if Memorial Park was not complete.

“It seems reasonable to me if we could get more bang for our buck by waiting a little bit,” board member Troy Rushmeyer said, noting again a postponement would allow bidders to take their time when considering the project.

Board Chair Kara Schaefer asked if waiting until next year would create a financial issue with the money the Brainerd City Council already allocated for the project. Already anticipating the question, City Administrator Jennifer Bergman texted Finance Director Connie Hillman, who said the 2020 bonds the council set aside can be used in 2021.

The board unanimously agreed to postpone the project.

About the project

New amenities proposed for Memorial Park include two hockey rinks to double as pickleball courts in the summer, a pleasure ice rink, a four-season warming house, a playground, horseshoe pits, a picnic shelter and two bituminous walking/biking paths, along with upgrades to the softball field lights and concessions area.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.