Since inflation started to really take off in early 2022, the cost of everything seems to have gone up: eggs, gasoline, rent. And it appears that proposed construction projects are not immune from the effects of rapidly-rising prices.
In their Aug. 8 meeting, the Boulder City Council got a presentation updating estimated costs for a proposed new facility to replace the city’s aging pool. When the council received the initial estimate from SCA Design in 2021, the cost of replacing the entire facility was tagged at more than $27 million. At the end of February of this year, after receiving an update on conceptual plans and potential costs, the council directed city staff to seek an update to the original cost estimate accounting for what was assumed would be higher costs.
That updated estimate came last week and the price tag has increased to more than $36.7 million, a 36% increase over the 2021 estimate.
A representative of SCA Design gave a presentation at which she outlined the parameters of the proposed project that had been presented to the Municipal Pool Ad Hoc Committee which recommended that the city move forward with the project. “Given the state of the world economy, the United States economy and specifically here in Boulder City, you’re going to see quite a bit of a cost difference,” she said before presenting the numbers.
The current municipal pool facility dates from the early 1980s and is in need of repair or replacement, that much is undisputed (outside of one voice during public comment who called for the razing of the existing pool without replacing it). And council members who spoke were supportive of building a new facility. The conflict comes when considering how to pay for it and that process was complicated by the greatly increased cost estimate.
The most obvious route for most city governments would be to issue a bond to finance the pool with the costs being payed over a longer term. But Boulder City is not like other municipalities in that it operates almost totally on a cash basis. The only outstanding debt the city is currently on the hook for is a bond that was used to pay for a water line and even that is paid in advance of what is actually owed.
The plan last year was to use the proceeds from the sale of a tract of land bordering Boulder Creek Golf Club known as Tract 350 to fund the project. Negotiations with the luxury residential home developer Toll Brothers fell through when they were not able to agree to terms.
Both city staff and Toll Brothers reported in February that interest in consummating a transaction was still there. In a story published in the Boulder City Review, Robyn Hogan, Toll Brothers vice president of land acquisition said, “We remain interested in the parcel.”
City Manager Taylour Tedder reported that the city was still interested as well.
“The housing market has changed since the conversation started with Toll Brothers,” he said in the same Feb. 28 news story. “Property on golf courses is still very desirable, especially due to the fact golf courses can no longer be constructed in Southern Nevada.”
While water may seem more plentiful with regular reports of Lake Mead being at higher levels than 2022 coming every week in 2023, there is still a water crisis all along the Colorado River and in 2021, the Southern Nevada Water Authority mandated that golf courses constructed after that point could not use Colorado River water for irrigation which, given that 90% of water used in the Las Vegas Valley and Boulder City comes from the Colorado River resulted in a de facto ban on new courses.
“Toll Brothers will hopefully have information for us in the spring regarding the property. I believe we can find a way to move forward that benefits Boulder City residents and the new aquatic center in the near future,” Tedder said in February.
But spring passed and as residents begin to look toward late summer, there has been no news about renewed negotiations. But Tedder remains optimistic. “I expect this item will be revisited at a council meeting to discuss options in the next couple of months,” he said in an email message last week.