By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON

cstephenson@dcherald.com

BRETZVILLE — Improvements at the Dubois County Park will likely be funded by completing the construction in phases and fundraising from the community, the county park board decided at a Tuesday meeting.

The project, which will include 14 RV campsites, trail improvements, a restroom building/information center and a paved parking lot near the restroom building, received only one bid late last month, which was twice as much as expected and two times more than what the park board has available.

The bid was just short of $1.1 million, Park Board President Christine Prior said. The park has a $250,000 Land and Water Conservation grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and about $250,000 of its own.

Prior said she expected the bid to be slightly more than what they had but still can’t determine why it was double what was expected.

“We could try to reason it out, but fact of the matter is we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board,” she said. “We could just say that the bids came in too high and we’re done, but that’s not what we’re going to do.”

The cost of underground infrastructure, which includes water, sewer and electric lines, was much higher than expected at more than $300,000. The board discussed switching from copper to aluminum lines to save some money, but otherwise there is not much from the project that can be changed.

“There’s really not a lot to cut because we need the infrastructure to make the campground viable,” Prior said. “I don’t want us to build something we’re not happy with and the citizens of Dubois County aren’t happy with.”

The board plans to split the project up into phases that multiple contractors can bid on. This means that one contractor could potentially bid on the campsites while another does the restroom facility and another does trail improvements. These changes will have to be approved by the DNR first.

The board also plans to ask the county for funds from the American Rescue Plan, which is meant to provide aid to governments, businesses and individuals to recover from COVID-19. The county received $8.3 million from the ARP in March, which must be used by the end of 2024 and can only be spent in certain ways.

Dubois County Council member Mike Kluesner, who was present at Tuesday’s board meeting, said the park could potentially argue that the project will improve mental health in the county, which is one of the ways the ARP funds can be spent.

Additionally, the board plans to fundraise from the community. This will include asking some of the larger corporations in the county for private donations.

Construction on the project is to be completed by summer 2023 per the DNR grant agreement. The board plans to send out a request for bids again later this year.

Prior said the project is important because it provides more opportunities for both long-term visitors who want to camp and short-term visitors who want to walk the trails for an afternoon. She said she hopes the improvements will help the park create a name for itself, whereas right now it is often only associated with the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds.

“We want more people to be aware that the park is here and available to everyone,” she said.

The park board will have a special meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 14 at the Dubois County 4-H Fairgrounds' Clover Pavilion building to further discuss the project.