BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With a bid from an Iowa construction firm coming in almost double engineering estimates in September, Fort Madison city officials are going back almost to square one.
Iowa Bridge and Culvert submitted a bid for $2.83 million to construct a depot platform at the old historical train depot in Fort Madison’s Riverview Park.
City Councilmen on Tuesday rejected the bid and authorized a rebidding of the project in the spring. Officials with HR Green, the city’s engineer on the project, said bids could be more favorable if put out in the spring rather than the fall.
But Green’s estimates on several projects of late, including the Avenue G sidewalk rehabilitation project and the 2nd through 6th rehab of Old Highway 61, have come in substantially under construction bids causing the projects to either die or be delayed.
The Avenue L curve straightening estimate was more line, just slightly over construction costs.
Mayor Brad Randolph said he, along with City Manager David Varley, who was not in attendance Tuesday, and councilman Chris Greenwald, have had conference calls with all the major rail, Iowa DOT, and Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission officials.
Greenwald said those parties are all wanting to see the project get completed.
Randolph said another conference call is set for Monday.
“We do have another conference call on the 21st with the same parties to see if there’s been any change in position for funding,” Randolph said.
“We have SEIRPC working with us on some angles for grant money that’s been out there and trying to figure out which one would best work and what time frame parameters are associated with those.”
The project is a Department of Transportation project that has Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Amtrak, and the city in circular lease agreements. The city would be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the platform, but BNSF would own and would carry the leases with Amtrak and the city.
Randolph said a spring bid may also help costs.
“The thought is that we would rebid it for the early spring, so unless we would hear different from DOT… we would still have that window of opportunity to do this project.”
But the mayor said he’s been very forthcoming with all the parties that the city just doesn’t have the money to pay the additional costs of the proposed bid.
“We left it all out on the table,” Randolph said.
City Councilman Bob Morawitz said he’s familiar with the president of Amtrak and he said rail officials are not a fan of the transcontinental runs, of which Fort Madison is a part of, and favor more the corridors runs.
He asked Randolph if Amtrak would be willing to guarantee the stop. Randolph said he didn’t think Amtrak could do that in any situation.
Greenwald said the fact that they are willing to pay to staff the facility for the next 10 years is indicative of their commitment.
Randolph said if the city has any intent in seeing the project through they need to vote to rebid the project so Amtrak and other parties know the city is still interested in moving the depot.
With Randolph and Greenwald vacating their respective mayor and council seats, Councilman Mark Lair asked if the two were going to stay engaged with the project.
Greenwald said Varley has been involved in the discussions from the get go and will have all the pertinent information, but he said he and Randolph are still going to help whereever they can to get the project completed.
“I still believe this is going to happen,” Greenwald said.
The council voted 7-0 to rebid the project in the spring.
Councilman Matt Mohrfeld, who’s running to fill the mayor’s seat, said he came in at the 11th hour of the project. He said there has been a lot of work already done and the move could lead to additional development on the riverfront.
“Anything I can do along the way, Brad and Chris, just let me know.”