Mayor wants answers on sidewalk bid disparity

Randolph not ready to give up on downtown sidewalk project


FORT MADISON – City officials revealed Thursday that a bid on a sidewalk improvement project that was supposed to result in new curbs and sidewalks for a good portion of Avenue G came in 146% over engineering estimates.

Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph said Wednesday night that one bid came in for the work at $3.2 million to get three blocks of Avenue G done on both sides. Engineering estimates were about $1.4 million for the project.

HR Green Inc., of Cedar Rapids has been ushering the project for the city and Randolph said he wants answers on where the disparity in the bids and HR Green’s estimates came from.

“I’m really at a loss,” Randolph said Wednesday night. “I’m disappointed in the whole process and I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. For them to stand in front of the council and say that and be off by almost $2 million is unfathomable.”

He said the city’s spent about $100,000 on the project already and he wants something for that money.

Randolph met with City Manager David Varley Wednesday morning about the project and said at 7:30 a.m. it was a dead project.

But similar to the Amtrak Depot relocation that was almost swiped away by the council during budget talks, Randolph said he’s not ready to give up on the project.

“As of this morning, the project was DOA and that’s not acceptable. We’re going back to the engineer and find out the reason for the disparity between what they say we can do it for, and what can be done with that project.”

According to the bid submitted, there were too many unknowns in what would be found under the surface of the current sidewalks.

Randolph said it’s his understanding that there were a lot of unknowns in the design in terms of the membrane, building foundations, and basements. Those unknowns made it difficult for the contractors to bid it.

But the mayor said, similar to the depot project he wasn’t ready yet to give up on the project and would like to get something done downtown.

“That sidewalk project was a good seed. It wasn’t taking anything from the general fund. It was saved interest that we had to pay and we could put it back into the community,” he said.

Funds for the project were a reimbursement of interest paid on the city’s waste water treatment plant rehab and the funds can only be used on projects that further mitigate storm water drainage.

Because the project is overseen by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources there are restrictions on how the project is handled.

“There’s limits to where you can use it (funding). In my opinion, when you’re trying to maximize on what the community would get back, that sidewalk project is the best possible scenario,” Randolph said. “It gives us the biggest impact. I think we should not give up on it until we have to and I’m not convinced we do that yet.”

He said the city wanted to use area contractors if possible, but bidding may have to be opened to larger cities to see if another firm can come in with a better price point on the project.

“Let’s say the local contractors are not comfortable –  should we open it up, I think we should to get the job done and try to find someone with that expertise that’s willing to take on the project,” he said.

He said other projects have been discussed that would fit the parameters of the funding stream, but he isn’t willing to take that step.

“There’s been some talk about other projects it could be used for,” he said. “But I don’t think we should approach those until I’m absolutely convinced that the sidewalk project is not going to happen.”

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