Mayor takes engineers to task over projects – again

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A city-hired engineering firm took another scolding Tuesday night from Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld.

This time the issue was the PORT trail extension that runs along Avenue B east from Fort Madison High School property to 15th Street and then up to Rodeo Park.

Morhfeld was upset with HR Green Inc, which engineered the project, after fielding complaints from neighborhood residents. Mohrfeld said there was a lack of a clean flow of the project along Avenue B.

MOHRFELD

“From the day I met with the team on this project. I said avenue B is an opportunity that we have to be careful with because we’re going through people’s front yards. And we are failing miserably,” Mohrfeld said.

Mohrfeld cited a failure to do grades or utilities correctly and said he didn’t blame residents in the area for being upset.

“Before anybody jumps on and tells me it’s somebody else’s surveying, I’m pretty sure its HR Green stamps on the prints that we are guided by,” Mohrfeld said.

Tim Cutsforth, a project engineer with HR Green, was on the call and asked Mohrfeld what he meant by clean flow of the trail.

Mohrfeld told Cutsforth that when they originally met on the project the mayor outlined concerns for property owners, including inclines in driveways and possible other options to reduce the impact on the neighborhood.

“I’m not 100% deniable, but I’m still frustrated,” Mohrfeld said. “I just don’t think our reservations about the clean flow of that trail through people’s front yards was taken to heart when we did the planning on this.

“I think we dropped the ball and I hope this doesn’t continue as we go up the hill on this project because I love this project.”

Cutsforth said he wasn’t going to blame other company’s surveying work and would be willing to meet with the city again to walk the project. But he said all options were considered and discussed before moving forward with plans.

“What I am going to tell you is that we did look at the south side. We looked at eliminating both sides of parking and putting the trail in the middle of the street. They were discussed and the decision was made to put it on the north side,” Cutsforth said.

“The trail is going in and it has to fit existing ground as best as possible and has to meet ADA standards. I guess I understand some of what your saying and would be happy to talk with you more about it anytime.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker, who has advocated for the city to take more accountability in the plans the city approves, again said the city needs to be more responsible for what they approve.

“Well, I sure hope, now that you have so many frustrations with the engineering firms, that we are now taking the plans and walking them ourselves so we have some personal accountability,” Bowker said.

Last month Mohrfeld took another local engineer to task for change orders on the Amtrak Depot passenger platform project and Bowker said the city had some responsibility in those errors as well.

Along with several other projects in and around Fort Madison, including Burlington, have met with frustration over engineering estimates versus actual bid costs.

The freshly finished 2nd to 6th street Hwy. 61 project had to be rebid due to discrepancies in the estimate vs. bid costs. A project to overhaul curbs and sidewalks along Avenue G was abandoned because bids weren’t in line with engineering estimates.

The Amtrak passenger platform project also met with a change order Tuesday, but those changes resulted in a $112,153 savings on the project.

The change order on the PORT project amounted to an increase of $4,372 bringing the total cost of the new phase to $1,211,149. The trail is being paid for by a $1.5 million donation from the Great River Health System/Fort Madison Community Hospital Community Health Fund.

A third change order was also approved by the council on the upcoming 6th to 10th Street Hwy. 61 reconstruction project. HR Engineer submitted an increase request for $165,260 for design of a new sanitary sewer along the highway, bringing to the total engineering costs for the project to $617,060.

All the change orders were approved with a 7-0 vote.

In other action, the council:
• approved a second reading of an ordinance that would eliminate parking on the south side of Avenue E from 2nd to 24th streets in Fort Madison. Newly appointed Councilman Tom Schulz said he would like some clarification on road standards prior to the third reading. The ordinance requires three readings before becoming official.

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