Despite receiving bids $150,000 higher than anticipated, Riverside’s Board of Trustees voted June 19 to go ahead with an interior renovation of the village’s historic water tower and attached former pump house.

Board members voted unanimously to accept a $349,000 bid from Waukegan-based Happ Builders to turn the pump house into office and programming space for the Riverside Recreation Department. The ground floor area of the cylindrical water tower will be turned into restrooms and storage space.

Adding in a 5-percent contingency for construction costs, the total price tag for the renovation is expected to be $366,000. The original architect’s estimate for the renovation was $200,000.

“The difference will be made up by dipping into the village’s fund for capital improvements. There was no way to do the project satisfactorily for $200,000,” said Village Manager Kathleen Rush.

“You’d have to cut the project in half and either do the office side or the programs said,” Rush said. “You couldn’t do both.”

Although the project will eat into reserves slated for future capital improvements, trustees felt the project was an essential one to complete.

“It’s important to remember that the Recreation Department is a positive contributor,” said Trustee Thomas Shields. “We cover our costs and provide recreational opportunities to residents they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Trustee John Scully, meanwhile, said that while the difference between the architect’s estimates and the bids was significant, “we’ve whittled [the project] down two times.”

“I was elated with the village board’s support for this,” said Recreation Department Director Laure Kosey. “They know the project needs to get done for the community. I truly appreciate that.”

Last month, the board rejected several bids?”which ranged from $217,000 to $518,000?”for the renovation project. The low bidder was rejected after a credit check, while the others were deemed too high. In response, Riverside revised the bid specifications to help lower costs.

According to Kosey, those modifications included making the two bathrooms smaller (one stall each instead of two), which also reduced some of the plumbing expense, using a thinner vinyl flooring for the new program space instead of a rubber floor and reworking a doorway into the water tower space that maintained ADA accessibility, but lowered the cost.

Despite the changes, the three bids received by the village ran between $349,000 and $397,000.

Rick Cozzi, a representative from Arcon Associates, the architectural firm hired by the village to complete the bid packet, apologized for Arcon being so far off the mark on its estimate of costs.

“I apologize the bids came in where they did,” Cozzi said. “I’m as disappointed as you are. In the beginning we just underestimated what it would cost to get it done.”

Cozzi said his company underestimated the profit margin contractors would want on a project that, though smaller in scale, still required them to manage a bevy of subcontractors. Arcon’s estimates for the plumbing and electrical work, specifically, fell far short of the actual bids.

Arcon said it would expect the Village of Riverside to renegotiate its fee related to the project in light of Arcon’s bid forecasting.

Kosey said she hoped work to get rid of asbestos and lead paint in the building could begin within the next two weeks. While the entire project might be completed as early as September, Kosey said the end of October was a more realistic time frame for completion.