BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Very little headway has been made since a July 7 meeting where a consultant said the city is about $400,000 over budget on a plan to reconstruct city sidewalks and curbs from 6th to 10th Street.
Fort Madison City Manager David Varley said Monday the city is directing HR Green & Associates of Cedar Rapids to try and find cost-saving measures that can bring the project back down to budget.
The project would replace the city’s dilapidated sidewalk and curbing on Avenue G from 6th to 10th streets at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.
Funding for the project is from a reimbursement program from the state where interest paid on the city’s waste water treatment plant through the state’s revolving loan program can be refunded back to the city for a project that helps promote better stewardship of storm water runoff.
However, at the July meeting, city officials were told current designs had the project over budget and HR Green would come back with options for reducing the cost.
Varley said he told the consultants to come back with some other options last week because he doesn’t want to see the project stripped down if it can be prevented.
“They came back with some options such as cutting a block off the project and that can be done at either end, but either way people aren’t going to be happy with that,” Varley said. “We’d hate to tell anyone that their block wasn’t getting done. So we asked them to come back with other options last week and we haven’t heard anything on that request yet.”
He said currently, to get the project under budget, the city would have to cut a block off the project and remove planters from the north side of Avenue G. The planters are part of the aesthetics that go with the pervious brick pavers that would butt up against new curbs and go back about six feet. The pavers also have approved sand and dirt in them that also helps handle stormwater.
The remaining six feet from the pavers to the buildings would be ADA compliant concrete. Below the pervious brick will be four to six feet of a gravel filter base and then storage tanks that slowly allow the filtered water back into the city’s regular storm water lines.
Planters on the south side of the Avenue G have to be kept in the project because the only way the south side qualified for the grant money was if the planters were included.
“We’re pushing them to come up with other options,” Varley said. “We’re giving them one more chance to see what they come up with, then we’ll discuss it, but we’re waiting for something else because we don’t want to have to go to an extreme.”
Varley said the city approached Fort Madison Main Street to see if there were any grants or funds they could contribute to the project, but the group indicated they did not have the funds.
Denicia Wright, coordinator for Main Street, said she was unaware of any grant applications or funding the group has tried to secure for the project, but said Fort Madison’s Main Street budget wouldn’t have funds to assist the project.
“Unfortunately no, unless we can find some grant money somewhere, Main Street doesn’t have the money for it at this time. Not that I’m aware of,” Wright said.
She said cutting off a block from the program would be a disappointment as it wouldn’t be fair to the whole district.
Fort Madison Partners Executive Director Tim Gobble said he would be willing to meet with the city to see if there is any way Partners could support the city’s efforts.
“Obviously, the city has to stay within their means,” Gobble said. “Ultimately you’d want to go from 6th to 10th. It’s a dire need to get these sidewalks and curbs repaired, but they only get so much money, and they’re trying to do everything they can to get it done. I’d be willing to sit down with them and look at it.”
Varley said he’s hoping to have information on the project to the council before the end of September. Construction on the project is set to begin in March or April, but Varley said getting the project under budget could push that start time back.