BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A $3.3 million resurfacing of old Hwy. 61 through Fort Madison took another step back on Tuesday.
With a 3-2 vote at Tuesday’s regular Fort Madison City Council meeting, the council defeated a measure that would have approved the project at a cost of $3.326 million.
Despite the majority of the councilman present voting in favor of moving forward with the project, a resolution requires a majority vote of the entire council. With councilman Matt Mohrfeld and Rusty Andrews absent, the three votes in favor of moving forward with the project wasn’t enough to pass it.
So with the issue not passing, the city now finds itself in a position to rebid the project.
But Andrew Marsh, vice president of HR Green, the firm contracted by the city to design and implement the project, said rebidding could possibly result in a more competitive bid for the city. He said summer bidding is typically a bad time because most firms are full into their work for the year, and squeezing in a project of that nature typically results in increased costs.
He said the biggest feedback he’s received from Pat Jones, of Jones Contracting, who was the lone bidder on the project, was that there were a lot of liquidated damages built into the contract, because the work could be pushed passed contracted deadlines due to several factors including the state historical society observing the work due to the location of the road, and weather.
Liquidated damages are potential costs to the contractor as a penalty for going past the contracted deadlines.
“There are quite a bit of liquidated damages here and there’s a potential savings of about $100,000 if we rebid at a more favorable time,” Marsh said.
He also pointed to about five other potential savings that could have been worked out had the contract been approved. Those included railroad flagging that needs to be done due to the proximity of the rail lines south of the work; a $75,000 Welcome sign that could be scaled back; construction fending along the corridor at about $30,000; decorative lighting; and changing from sodding to seeding for grass replacement.
Marsh said those savings could total about $230,000 which would bring the project to about $3.1 million.
City Councilman Chris Greenwald asked City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll if asphalt could be substituted at this point in the process to cut savings.
Driscoll said there was probably a 0% chance the project would be supported by the state at this point changing to asphalt. Driscoll also said Jones, who’s done many projects for the city, “always beats asphalt” on his price for concrete.
Jones, who was at the meeting, said he was willing to negotiate with the city, but reminded the council that the last engineer to present at a council meeting, Tim Cutsforth, said the project estimate from HR Green was probably 10% low considering the time that has passed since the project was originally designed. The original bid was $2.76 million to reconstruction the stretch of the highway from 2nd to 6th Street.
But Jones said he couldn’t tell the city what would happen if the project was to be rebid.
City Councilman Bob Morawitz said he was voting in favor of moving forward with the project, because there was no guarantee rebidding would result in lower costs. Councilman Mark Lair also voted in favor of the measure.
“City residents are ready to get that project done, they’re tired of waiting on it,” he said.
In an unrelated issue, the council voted to begin efforts to acquire property currently owned by the county where the former and dilapidated Town and Country Mobile Home Park is located on 15th Street.
The city has requested a tax abatement on the property and any dwellings on it from the county, and then intends to sell the property to Michael Mohrfeld, owner of Mohrfeld Electric, for $1. Mohrfeld will then pull all the old trailers off the lot, restore the property and plans to use it for storage of Mohrfeld equipment. Mohrfeld has estimated the cost of that clean up to be between $40,000 and $50,000.
The Lee County Supervisors approved the tax abatements on the property at its meeting Tuesday morning.
In other action, the council:
• approved 5-0 the 2018-19 fiscal year Street Finance Report.
• approved 5-0, a $14,700 bid to replace the roof on the Street Department building in the 2200 block of Avenue M.