Ball State Board of Trustees approve $800,000 increase in planetarium project funding

The Board of Trustees approved Saturday a roughly $800,000 increase in funding for construction on the new planetarium.

Based on construction bids from Oct. 10 and revisions to the project, the cost of the Charles W. Brown Planetarium will be $5.4 million, as opposed to the $4.6 million that was projected in July 2012.

The increase will still be funded by private donations to the Ball State University Foundation, according to the board materials released from Saturday’s meeting.

The increase comes primarily from an underestimate of construction costs. Architects originally estimated around $2.3 million for construction, but the Randy Howard, treasurer and vice president of business affairs, said it has been raised to $2.9 million.

Howard said one can never know the exact reason for these types of increases, but probably the biggest factor is the complexity of the project.

“We don’t build too many planetariums,” he said. “Planetariums have a pretty unique dome on top that involved integrating the building of the normal building, the installation of the dome that’s manufactured by a different party and projection.”

He said the architects might have underestimated the risk factor of the project given the complexities.

“Sometimes, they come in low, sometimes, they come in high,” he said. “This obviously was, from a percentage basis, a little higher.”

Howard said some of the other reasons for the increase might be the small construction site, the accelerated schedule and asking to do construction in winter.

The board materials said the equipment for the planetarium, including the projector, the dome and seating, have already been obtained or are being made.

Howard also was voted to seek approval from state agencies, obtain the financing needed for the increased cost and award contracts for the project.

State agencies already approved the planetarium, but the increase in the budget will need it to be approved again. Howard said he expects this to happen in November.

Howard also will award the contract to one of the five companies that have submitted bids to complete the project. The lowest-bidding company was at $2.9 million, but Howard said the contract could go to another company based on differing alternates. He said the university asked for a base design bid, but also ideas such as different types of doors or masonry. The university will select the lowest overall investment.

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