Because Monticello’s 2012 sales tax budget proposal was over budget by more than $260,000, the Monticello City Council, meeting as a committee of the whole Tuesday night, unanimously approved Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie’s motion to remove the construction of the Sadie Johnson Community Center from the budget until the city can meet with the engineers to review the plans and discuss cost-cutting measures.

Gillespie also recommended that a $27,000 carry-over from last year’s budget be added to the funds available to construct a community center to replace the Sadie Johnson Community Center which was destroyed by fire more than a year ago.

The city received a $225,000 insurance settlement after the fire and budgeted another $275,000 last year, but the low bid, coupled with a 10 percent engineering fee, was $758,000  — considerably more than the $500,000 available for the project.

Mayor Allen Maxwell said the engineer told him that they will never get the project within budget unless the size of the building is reduced. “He said he thinks it is just too big,” Maxwell said.

Plans call for a 6,000 square-foot building, 650 square-feet larger than the original building.

“I would like to know what’s in it that’s running it up so high, and what could be cut out,” Gillespie said. “I feel that we should be able to build the building; it may need to be cut down but I think we need to look at it.”

Maxwell said the city cannot legally negotiate with allof the bidders but may go through that process with the contractor who submitted the low bid.

“So, we have to deal with the low bidder,” Maxwell explained. “If we reject the low bid we’re free to go and start bidding again.”

Gillespie said she didn’t mind rejecting the bid but was concerned that it would drive up the engineering costs.

Maxwell explained that the engineering fee is based on the final cost of the project, regardless of how many times it is bid.

Though the city can review the plans for potential cost-saving revisions, Maxwell believes, based upon what the engineer told him, reducing the size of the building is the only thing that will reduce the cost.

Maxwell said he also talked to another engineer who said a 6,000 square-foot building can’t be built for much less than what the low-bidder bid.

Underscoring what the engineers told Maxwell, Bennie Ryburn III, chairman of the Monticello Airport Commission, said the cost to build a new 4,000 square-foot commercial building at the airport is about $500,000.

Alderman Beverly Hudson pointed out that roughly 1,700 square-feet of the original building was utilized for the Head Start program which was relocated to another building after the fire. If Head Start does not move back into the new building that would it increase the square footage available for the community center.

So that the city can meet the sales tax budget deadline, Gillespie further recommended that community center construction be removed from the budget until the city can meet with the engineers to review the plans for cost cutting items.

The council approved Gillespie’s motion with a do-pass recommendation which will go to the city council for a vote at the next regular meeting.