PITTSBURG -- Plans to replace an aging pool with a children's activity pool at Ambrose Park are likely sunk given that the lowest bid exceeded the amount the park district has budgeted for the project.

The bid to build the new pool and demolish the existing oblong-shaped pool came in at about $700,000 higher than the $1.5 million that was budgeted, said Tarry Smith, general manager of the Ambrose Recreation & Park District, which oversees the park. The work also included restrooms, an office, a snack bar and a pool equipment building. The matter will be discussed at the next board meeting, which is Dec. 12, he said.

Ambrose Park is within Pittsburg city limits, but the park is owned and maintained by the park district, which has final approvals for the pool project and awarding of bids.

The bid amount surprised Steve Hoagland, chairman of the district's board of directors. "I was shocked that it came in so high," Hoagland said.

Previously, the district held two public workshops in 2009 that had resulted in the adoption of a master plan for the children's pool project and other Ambrose Park improvements.

Smith believes that the bid would have come in lower if the bid requirements were sent out earlier instead of a few weeks ago.

"Three or four years ago was the best time to bid the project out," he said. "Prices were very low at that time."

Some Bay Point residents said there was inadequate public input into the master plan and pushed for rebuilding of the old pool or having the new pool be a lap pool. The district said an 18-inch deep, irregularly shaped children's pool was more cost-efficient, but the district left open adding a four-lane lap pool, provided the bid for the children's pool came well below the $1.5 million budgeted for construction costs. But that is now impossible, given that the bid to build the children's pool exceeds that.

Hoagland said the district will have to hold more public hearings and consider other options included in the master plan now that it appears there is not enough money available to build even the children's pool.

"We'll have to have a meeting and figure out where to go from here," he said. "We have a master plan. It has a lot of things in it. We don't have to go back to square one."

Options in the master plan include building an amphitheater in the park or covering the existing pool area and building a group picnic area that would meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even without the bid coming in too high, the pool project faced another challenge: After the design plan for the pool was approved by the Pittsburg Planning Commission, an appeal was filed by Bay Point resident Michael Kerr. The appeal was to be heard by the Pittsburg City Council on Nov. 19, but the new developments have postponed the hearing to Dec. 17.

Unless the district is able to come up with additional funds to meet the bid requirements of the children's pool, it is unlikely the appeal will be heard, Kerr said.

To that end, Kerr wants the park district to consider making repairs to the existing pool, which was built more than 60 years ago and closed down in 2008 for safety reasons.

"They keep saying it would cost too much to repair the pool. ... There are no documents to back up what they are saying," Kerr said, adding that the district has overestimated the cost of repairing the old pool by failing to take into account a report that said not every code violation would have to be addressed. "A number of code violations did not have to be fixed because it was an older pool."

Hoagland dismisses such claims, saying that making repairs to the old pool could turn into a huge financial money pit.

"The minute you break into the side of the pool you are committed to doing whatever is needed to bring it up to standards," he said. "If we voted to do it for $200,000 and it (cost) a million, we are committed to fix it."

The Ambrose pool replacement project is estimated to cost $2.3 million, when additional costs are factored in besides construction. Project funding comes from: $1.13 million from the East Bay Regional Park District's Measure WW, a voter-approved bond measure; $600,000 in park fees paid by Pittsburg developers; $98,000 in district funds; and $473,000 in county developer fees.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/eastcounty_girl.