With mild temperatures consistent throughout the winter of 2011-12 work on improvements for the western half section of Jaycee/Ehlert Park in Brookfield are ahead of schedule and should be completed by spring.

As February begins winding toward March, extensive progress has been made on all aspects of the project, including the water retention area, the zero-depth splash pad and volleyball court, a small picnic pavilion near the splash pad, new exercise stations and the new concession stand near the baseball fields to the north.

When the project began last fall, officials said that they expected work to wrap up by June 1. Now, it looks like it’ll be done much sooner.

“The concession stand will be ready for when baseball starts in the spring,” said Keith Sbiral, the village’s assistant manager and Brookfield’s point person for the Ehlert Park improvement project. “The splash pad should be ready to go [by summer] and the exercise stations, I think, are already being used.

“We’ll do a grand opening when all of the landscaping is done.”

The project is also keeping pretty close to the original bid price, although some unforeseen issues having to do primarily with excavation have increased the cost somewhat.

As anyone who lives in the southern end of Brookfield can tell you, you can’t go very far below the top soil before hitting the limestone bedrock that has made the surrounding area a haven for quarries.

The issue is no different at Jaycee/Ehlert Park. Although the village did test borings prior to putting the work out to bid, work crews ran into bedrock in an area being excavated for the water retention and the area where a sewer line is being connected to that retention area.

“We did what we thought were sufficient borings,” said Sbiral. “There was more solid rock, particularly in the stretch where the storm sewer heads south to the main connection.”

A 10-foot tall pile of broken limestone still sits in the middle of the soon-to-be retention area. Part of it is being used for backfill at other sites in the work area.

“You just don’t know until you start digging,” Sbiral said.

The contractor, Schaefges Brothers Inc., won the construction contract with a low bid of $980,416. The work is being paid for through three separate grants totaling a little more than $1 million from Lyons Township, the state of Illinois and the federal government’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant program.

However, change orders approved by the Brookfield village board on Feb. 13 increased the final total cost to $1,013,942, about 3.5 percent over budget. Sbiral said he doesn’t expect much more in the way of change orders, since excavation work is largely complete and most of the structures are already up.

Brookfield also approved some upgrades to the facilities, which also increased costs somewhat. A few of the upgrades included increasing the foundation wall thickness of the concession stand, upgrading the building’s electric service and approving an upgrade of the roofing material.

Because the current phase of construction doesn’t involve any new fields being built, the area should be ready for full use this spring or early summer.

However, Sbiral said that one soccer field at Ehlert Park, one completed as part of the 2009 improvements, will be closed to use this spring and summer. The fields built in the eastern section of Ehlert Park have had their issues in the past couple of years.

The full-size soccer field immediately east of the Sunnyside Avenue parking lot will be closed for aeration and maintenance until later in the summer of 2012, said Sbiral.