WILLMAR — The residents and city staff who have been working on planning the projects funded by the Invest in Willmar local option sales tax finally got a bit of good news. The bids for the Robbins Island Regional Park project came in under budget by more than $700,000.

"This is really good news," said Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director, at the July 8 meeting of the Willmar City Council Public Works and Public Safety Committee.

The lowest bidder was Duininck Inc., with a bid of $1,179,553 for the construction of a new road, parking lots and water main at the park. The engineer's estimate for the project was $1.9 million. Baumgarn said low oil prices helped keep the final cost lower than expected.

"Very happy to see this bid come in as low as it did," Baumgarn said.

The committee recommended approval of the bid, which will go in front of the City Council for final approval on July 20.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

If the bid award is approved, work could then move forward on the project.

"Let's move on it, let's get it done," said Sean Christensen, Willmar Public Works director. "I think we are in good shape, I really do."

Construction will require the closure of parts of the park, including the main entrance, parking lots and boat launches. Residents who live around the lakes and have boats in the water will be notified prior to the boat launches being closed.

Parts of the park could still be available for use, such as the playground and beach. People will just have to walk in from other locations.

"People will still be able to access the island. They will have to go to Hedin Park and park," Baumgarn said.

Once the project is completed, Robbins Island will have a new two-way road along the Foot Lake side of the park. The current road, a one-way loop around the park, will be closed to vehicle traffic for most of the year and used as a walking and biking path. It will be open to cars during the Celebrate the Light of the World holiday light display between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

There will be an estimated 230 parking spots across the park in the new layout. The old parking lots will be torn out and replaced with green space. Both boat launches will have paved parking for trucks and trailers, along with spots for regular vehicles.

The lower-than-expected costs for the project could open up future improvement opportunities at the park, including new shelters. The City Council had decided in May to bid only for the road, parking lot and water main improvements this year, though they had the option to bid for the shelters as alternates to the project.

"Council chose not to add the alternates to this bid," Christensen said. "By doing this, we would have to rebid those alternates as individual projects."

While there was discussion at the committee to try and get the shelters done this year, others were more circumspect.

"This is the scope of work that we intended to take on this year, at this time, given the present circumstance," said Councilor Andrew Plowman.

Baumgarn said the Robbin Island subcommittee will be meeting to discuss future steps for the park and what to do with the additional money.

"Prioritize what they think needs to be done," Baumgarn said.