City takes steps on downtown sidewalk project


FORT MADISON -Fort Madison city leaders took another step on a sidewalk project that could put new sidewalks and, potentially new curbing, in downtown Fort Madison.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, the council voted 6-0 to approve a professional services agreement with HR Green to design the sidewalk and stormwater improvement project.

The money used to fund the estimated $1.8 million project is actually the interest paid on the city’s waste water treatment plant renovation. A special funding program through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, allows the city to use the interest on the loans for the waste water treatment project to fund a special project aimed at improved stormwater drainage.

The funding, according to Andrew Marsh, a project specialist with HR Green, is 10% of the cost of the waste water treatment plant, capped at $1.5 million.

The new sidewalks would include six feet from the curb back toward the buildings, of permeable pavers that allow storm water to flow through and into the rock bed underneath. The six remaining feet from the pavers to the buildings would be regular concrete to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mayor Brad Randolph said he couldn’t emphasize enough how beneficial the funding of the project is.

“This is money that we would have paid back to the state, and they are just saying, “Here, keep it and do a project with it,” he said.

City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said the project had to address stormwater drainage, which this project would. He also reminded the audience that it will not impact the streets or street surfaces.

The city has plans to redo that stretch of road on Avenue G when it puts in new separated storm and sewer water lines after the Old Highway 61 project is completed.  The city plans to start replacing Old Highway 61 from 2nd Street to 6th Street in 2018 and that project will progress west in subsequent years.

Randolph asked Marsh again about how replacing the curbing could fit in.

“It was put to us that whatever had to be removed as part of the project they would replace, and that kind of goes hand in hand,” Randolph said.

“We could be potentially reimbursed for that. The curbing will be bid with the project and that is an eligible expense if we can prove that is contributing to the infiltration of rain water,” Marsh said.

But the cap of $1.5 million would be the extent of the covered costs of the project, So if the curbing were an eligible expense it would still have to come in under the $1.5 million cap of the entire project. If it’s over, the city could look at ways to fund that difference.

City Manager David Varley told the council the project also opens up options for Fort Madison Main Street and downtown groups to bump up the project if they can find funding to help put in streetscape wishes, such as period lighting or whatever is on their list for future improvements. But he reminded everyone that the city’s contribution is fixed.

Councilman Rusty Andrews, the past president of Fort Madison Main Street, said at first glance $1.8 million for 8 blocks of sidewalk seemed like a lot to swallow.

“We need to do it. It’s the right place to spend the money. The bigger picture is $1.8 million, projected cost, to do four blocks of sidewalk – what part of that makes sense? But the only reason it makes sense is that it’s just paid interest to the state. Let’s use it here. But if the city needs to kick in a little, how do you not?”

Cassie Gilbert, Fort Madison’s Main Street Coordinator, said Main Street Iowa is aware Fort Madison is moving forward with the project.

“Main Street Iowa is aware this is happening tonight,” she said after the meeting. “But other than that they have to wait ’til it’s approved before they can help me do anything.”

Andrews said after HR Green finishes their work of getting the project specs designed and approved for funding, then Main Street can look at options.

“Let HR do their job. They come back and say the project will cost $2 million and the city only has $1.5 million to see that through (Gilbert) could use that to her advantage in applying for funding from different sources. Whether it be private sources or Main Street Iowa.”

Driscoll said the city will probably try to facilitate a committee consisting of Main Street, business owners, and city officials to come up with a plan for the impact of the project and then possibly hold a community-wide meeting to get input from city residents.

Tim Cutsforth, a project manager with HR Green, said at a previous council meeting the application process would take six months, and the project itself could be completed in a single construction season. Driscoll wrote in his memo to the council, the project would be set to be completed by 2020. The cost for HR Green is $213,000 for their services.

In other action, the council.

– voted to reappoint Varley as the city’s representative on the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.

  • voted 6-0 to approve a contract with K&A Excavating LLC for intersection repairs at 7th Street and Hwy 2 (Avenue H) in the amount of $307,903.50
  • voted 6-0, to file an application with SEIRPC for grant funds to replace the surface of Hwy 61 between 20th and 30th streets. The project is scheduled for 2022.
  • voted 6-0, to approve an agreement with Visu-Sewer to clean and inspect Riverview Park’s trunk sewer main at a cost not to exceed $150,000.

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