Winnetka Park Board OKs engineering contract for Elder/Centennial project

The Winnetka Park District Board voted 5-2 in favor of Red Barn Design and Engineering to serve as part of the team tackling the renovations at Elder Lane and Centennial beaches.

The cost includes $421,695 for work on Elder Beach and another $418,375 for Centennial Beach. Board President Warren James said inflation increased the price.

Two other firms, Baird & Associates and GZA GeoEnvironmental, responded to the requests for the project. The park district did not respond by deadline with requests for the amount of those two contracts.

Commissioners Colleen Root and Cynthia Rapp voted against the contract saying they needed more information and hoped to sit down with the owner of the engineering firm and Director of Parks and Maintenance Costa Kutulas to better understand the contract. Commissioner David Seaman was initially hesitant, but voted for the contract.

“I feel like for an $800,000 investment, that is not what we committed to,” Rapp said. “I’m respectful but this is a big commitment. This is a lot of money. It doesn’t have some of the things that I hoped to see as a board member.”

Seaman said the board, as a whole, has to take some risk.

“I don’t love the fact that it’s $400,000 but it is,” he said. “We’re moving forward.”

A motion put forward by Root to request Red Barn to seek bids for hydrodynamic modeling narrowly passed with Board President Warren James, Board Vice President Christina Codo and Commissioner David Seaman voting against it.

Board Vice President Christina Codo, who also serves as the board liaison for New Trier, said that costs for recent work there ended up 40% higher than initially budgeted.

The board budgeted $6,750,000 for the Elder project in 2023′s budget. This included 250,000 for this type of work, a difference of over $171,000 on Elder alone.

“Elder has a budget to it. It has a plan before that we have in concept,” Kutulas said. “We have a lot of great information that we’re still going to be able to use and repurpose from previous engagements, not only with the community but work that was done already … those elements aren’t going away.”

Requests initially sought adding another firm at the request of Root, who wanted a peer review on the designs. She has since expressed concern that Shabica & Associates, which has been on the project from the start, would be working as a subcontractor under Red Barn.

Kutulas told the board at a previous meeting that each of the three firms that applied for the position said they planned to consult with Shabica because of the firm’s experience on several projects along the Winnetka shoreline including the Lloyd Beach and the village’s 2030 Lakefront Master Plan.

The board also approved a consulting contract on the Elder/Centennial project for urban planning company The Lakota Group for $82,740 and a contract for consulting on the storm water outfall at Elder to Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. for $15,200.

A vote passed 6-1 with Root abstaining to narrow the parameters for the dog beach proposed at Centennial from 170 to 270 feet to 200 to 236 feet. The vote will help consultants map out more concise designs at Centennial when the time comes.