Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt is stepping up his fundraising goal to cover cost overruns on the Zippin Pippin roller coaster. City officials say the construction project now is expected to cost $3.5 million, up from the original $3 million estimate.
Schmitt said $300,000 in city reserves have been tapped, and he believes private donations will cover the rest of the deficit. "We're still confident that we're going to have more revenues from other sources," he said.
The Zippin Pippin, under construction at Bay Beach Amusement Park, originally was planned to be covered by $2.4 million in city borrowing and $600,000 in expected donations.
On Tuesday, Schmitt said the original $3 million project budget was based on an early estimate that the foundation would cost about $200,000. That estimate was later discarded in favor of a more realistic $600,000 estimate, but it remained part of the project budget, resulting in the $300,000 in cost overruns.
The contingency fund was established using a Bay Beach reserve fund, which now is down to $650,000. Referring to the contingency, the mayor said, "We knew we would probably need it."
Construction got under way in August and is scheduled to continue through the winter.
The wooden roller coaster, scheduled to open next May, is intended as a replica of a longtime Memphis, Tenn., attraction renowned as Elvis Presley's favorite amusement park ride. Green Bay officials hope it will draw big crowds to Bay Beach.
SMA Construction Services LLC of Abrams is being paid $513,660 to install the ride's concrete foundation, and Miron Construction Co. of Neenah won the $936,753 job of assembling the wooden frame. City officials initially said both contracts were under budget.
But officials recently disclosed that they have exhausted a $300,000 contingency fund because of the higher-than-expected costs on the foundation job. Parks Director Bill Landvatter recently told the City Council the increased costs had "pretty much eaten up" the contingency. Landvatter also told aldermen that the project was likely to cost as much as $3.5 million.
The owner of SMA Construction Services later said his company has not encountered sizeable problems. Company owner Mike Abhold said his crews are nearly finished and have generated only minor cost overruns. "I guarantee it's nowhere near $300,000," Abhold said.
City staffers described about $28,000 in added costs for excavating deeper underground and adding more fill than they anticipated to stabilize the foundation.
Schmitt said he expects to have no trouble raising more in private donations to cover the remainder of the project deficit. He said he was not ready to divulge details, although he said last month that he was more than halfway to his original goal of $600,000. "I am committed to delivering this project," he said.
Chuck Bingham, a spokesman for consultant Martin & Vleminckx Rides LLC, which is overseeing the roller coaster project, said his firm was aware of cost overruns on the foundation job. Bingham, however, said there have been no other issues on the project. "It couldn't be better," he said.