BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Downtown business owners may still get new sidewalks and curbing despite the sinking of a project that would have infused $1.5 million into Avenue G’s deteriorating paving.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, a representative from HR Green and Associates told the city council that the city would be able to get one full block done and a portion of another with the money available.
HR Green are the engineers that told the city they could get initially four blocks done for the $1.5 million grant, which is money the city is paying in interest on loans secured for improvements at the waste water treatment plant.
Under the program the money can only be used for storm water improvement projects within the city. Regular city improvements like regular street and sidewalk rehabilitations or other standing city projects are not eligible for the funding unless they target better stormwater stewardship.
Now city officials are looking at possible reconstruction of all curbs and sidewalks without the pavers, planters, and subsurface that was being planned to better handle storm water runoff.
Property Works Director Larry Driscoll said the project would carry a cost of about $300,000 with the city paying $150,000 to $200,000 and property owners being assessed $1,500 over 10 years for their share of the costs.
Driscoll also suggested a franchise fee that would help with some of the costs.
Mayor Brad Randolph said the city needed to do more investigation of the funding to get the work done to make sure the city’s portion of the funding can be allocated.
Councilman Chris Greenwald said he’d heard many of the downtown businesses were relieved that the project was on thin ice.
“Another spin to this is that 50% of the business owners downtown were relieved when this project went away. They were scared to death of the construction interrupting business,” said Councilman Chris Greenwald.
“It would be interesting to get that organized and get their input, especially if we’re talking about special assessments.”
The project garnered just one bidder at $3.4 million coming in $1.9 million over HR Green’s projected estimate of $1.5 million to redo Avenue G’s curbs and sidewalks from 6th to 10th Street. With the city not having the funds to make up the difference, the city is moving to redoing two city-owned parking lots with storm water improvements at an estimated cost of $850,000.
The two lots would be the parking lot directly behind city hall and the city lot on the southeast corner of Avenue F and 8th Street.
Greenwald asked Driscoll if he thought parking lots were the best use of the money.
“I do now,” Driscoll said.
Councilman Matt Mohrfeld asked if the $850,000 was a legitimate estimate.
“With all due respect, is that going to come in at $2.5 million?” Mohrfeld asked.
Driscoll said the first step would be to do soil borings to see what was under the lots and, if it didn’t make sense, they could pull back before spending too much money.