Oak Bluffs selectmen sent the new town hall project back to the architect’s drawing board for cost cutting revisions this week, questioning how a lone bid for the construction came in so much higher than expected.

“First we have to reject those bids,” building committee chairman Bill McGrath told selectmen at their meeting Tuesday. “Second, we have to redesign the building. It’s not going to have the same features it had before.”

When town officials opened bids for the project on May 16, the sole qualified bidder was Delbrook/J.K. Scanlon, a construction firm that has built other public projects on the Vineyard.

The bid came in at $9.64 million, about $1.8 million higher than the $7.8 million appropriated at the 2017 annual town meeting.

Prior to the selectmen’s meeting, Mr. McGrath met with project designers from Keenan + Kenny Architects, Ltd, project managers from Daedalus Projects Inc. and representatives from Scanlon.

Mr. McGrath told selectmen that a booming construction industry was the primary reason for the high bid.

“The white hot economy was in my opinion, and in the words of the contractor who was speaking with us, was the most significant feature,” said Mr. McGrath. “I think the tariffs, the changes in the price, the economy in general has cranked that price up and I think that took a lot of people by surprise.”

He said architects will redesign the building by eliminating a partial sub-basement, modifying ceilings, moldings and other building features. He said the town also hopes to save money by separating the job of demolition from the construction bid.

“It’s going to take about four weeks to redesign the buildings,” Mr. McGrath said. “It’s going to take eight weeks after that to go out for bids. I’m optimistic — not jumping up and down with joy optimistic — that we can get the project that will look the same, will have the same functions, done within four weeks. Come back to the board and say here’s what we got, we think you should go forward, or here’s what we got, we think you should pull the plug.”

He said a new target date for the start of construction would be Oct. 1. He also said the architects have not been authorized to charge the town any additional fees.

“They need to go back and design the building the way we can afford it,” Mr. McGrath told selectmen. “These are the solutions the experts recommended to the architects and the program manager. I think it’s worth listening to the experts,” he added.

“Well the experts also guided a bid process that was almost $2 million off base,” said chairman Gail Barmakian.

Selectmen said they are firmly opposed to paying additional fees for the redesign.

“I’m leery of spending a whole lot more money while they create this redesign,” said selectman Brian Packish. “If there is an argument by the architects or Daedalus or anybody else to re-engage this process, where they fell short as far as I’m concerned, I’d like to hear about the upcharge before it happens, before it’s agreed to.”

Other members of the building committee defended the bidding process.

“This was a complete shock,” said selectman Jason Balboni, who also sits on the building committee. “I don’t think it was bad work done by these people. We’re dealing with a lot of different things that caused it to go up, and I think the building committee needs a minute to gather together and come up with a solution.”

Earlier in the week, architect John Keenan said he had never seen a bid come in so far over projected cost, especially considering that the added cost of building on the Island was built into construction costs.

“It’s a sign of the times,” he said. “Everybody is so busy, and you pay a premium to build on the Island.”

The delay will force the town into a logistical decision involving temporary trailers now in place to house town workers during demolition and construction.

The trailers will be ready for occupancy next week. Mr. McGrath said town employees could move in, despite the construction delay.

“I have to tell you that in my opinion it would be a step up,” he said, comparing the temporary quarters to the current town hall.

A contract with the town calls for the temporary trailers to stay in place for 18 months.

The new town hall has been an eventful project for the town which has been in the planning since 2014.