CENTRAL POINT — Development Services Director Matt Samitore recalls his face turning a few shades of red when he opened a trio of bids recently for the future Don Jones Park.

CENTRAL POINT — Development Services Director Matt Samitore recalls his face turning a few shades of red when he opened a trio of bids recently for the future Don Jones Park.

Three contractors bid to construct the 9-acre project, for which the city budgeted an initial $1.2 million. All three bids came in around $1 million beyond the city's budgeted amount.

"I guess my face turned pretty red at the initial readings," Samitore said.

"There was so much interest in the park initially, but then, when it was all said and done, there were no bids until about 10 minutes before we actually opened them — and then all three were well over what we'd budgeted to spend."

The three bids came in at $2.6 million, $2.8 million and just under $3 million.

Knife River estimator Dave Butler, who submitted a bid for $2.8 million, said oil costs were wreaking havoc on the local building industry, perhaps more so than for motorists.

"We've seen diesel prices that have went from the high twos that are nearing five dollars a gallon right now," said Butler, adding that engineering estimates often times were not on par with "actual day-to-day costs for materials."

"One thing contractors are seeing all over, like with pipe, anything made with oil is changing from day to day. When you get a quote from a manufacturer, it's only going to be good for a day, then it might change five or 10 percent that night "¦ it's just rampant."

Taylor Site Development owner Mark Taylor concurred. He said projects with built-in fuel escalation clauses, which allow for fuel spikes of more than 10 percent, are most appealing for contractors leery of under-bidding in a "topsy-turvy" economy.

"The construction industry has been hit with an inflation rate of about 30 to 35 percent. For fuel, we were paying $2.45 a gallon — and $1.50 for off-road diesel. Now, we're up to $4.45. That's an 80-85 percent increase," he said.

"The fuel is what moves the rock, pours the concrete "¦ the fuel is tied so closely to our business and our machines. I just don't believe the people that are designing the projects are doing enough preliminary."

Samitore said the city will reorganize plans for the project, facilitated by a special committee that solicited citizen input last year. The project will go back out for bids July 1, he said.

The project is likely to be separated into various portions, such as landscaping, parking lots and other areas. A contract will be awarded July 16.

"We'll break it into phases instead of trying to go for the whole shebang," Samitore said.

"There's been a lot of interest in seeing this park built and I know most people have been anticipating construction right now. Obviously that's not happening but we hope to get started on construction by Aug. 1 if everything goes the way we're anticipating."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.