City moves on with Hwy. 61 project despite disparity with estimates

From left to right Amy Chase, of Lee County Crime Stoppers; officer Greg Warosh, Fort Madison's upcoming K9 officer, Tammy LeMaster of Lee County Crimestoppers, and FM Police Chief Mark Rohloff pose with a $1,000 check the K9 Association presented to the city. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

HR Green again the center of concern council has over engineering estimates

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – Despite bids that came in at least 26% over engineering estimates, the city is moving forward with the next phase of Hwy. 61 rehabilitation from 10th to 18th Streets.

At Tuesday’s Fort Madison City Council meeting, the council voted 6-0 to accept a bid from Jones Contracting of West Point, the firm that has anchored the project to this point, for just under $8 million to reconstruct Hwy. 61 in the next segment.

Bids were opened on the project on Feb. 15 with Jones having the lowest bid. A second bid from Hawkeye Contracting came in at $9.3 million.

Mayor Matt Mohrfeld and City Councilman Tom Schulz pushed against the inconsistency of HR Green’s estimates.

HR Green has been in Mohrfeld’s sights for the past three years. In 2019, HR Green missed on a project that was set to restore curbs and sidewalks in four blocks of downtown Fort Madison on Avenue G. HR Green estimated $1.5 million for the work, and the one bid that came in was $3.4 million.

Mohrfeld also took HR Green to task over poor performance of the PORT Trail along Avenue B, saying the design was poorly assembled.

Most recently, the city took HR Green to task for asking to move a part-time inspector that was to be used on multiple projects, to a full-time inspector for the upcoming 10th to 18th Streets’ project. One of the other projects that was supposed to happen simultaneously was pulled by the city, but the city was reluctant to allow HR Green to move the inspector to full time on the Hwy. 61 project because the agreement with the engineer indicated inspections could be done part-time.

The move added $105,000 to the project.

Project Manager Thomas Jantscher said the costs were based on estimates from the 6th to 10th Streets’ work and were put together in October.

“When we put this estimate together, we based it mostly on the 6th to 10th Streets’ projects and compared the bid costs,” Jantscher said. “What we’re hearing is that material costs are just very high right now, and it’s also a reflection of the the way things have been over the past year.”

City Public Works Director Mark Bousselot, said 10th to 18th is going to cost $995,000 per block. The phase the city just completed from 6th to 10th was $857,000 per block and 2nd to 6th Street was $700,000 per block.

Bousselot said if the city were to reject the bid, he would want to see something substantially changed to justify rebidding the project.

“I don’t know what we could do to this project,” he said. “And I’m afraid if we wait two to three months, the cost is going to go back up again.”

Schulz said he is unhappy with the lack of accuracy of the bonds based on information that is front of them.

SCHULZ

“Maybe somebody should have said somewhere, ‘Hey, we put this number together last October. This isn’t last October’.”

Councilman Andrews asked Schulz, who runs an HVAC company in Fort Madison, when he called a vendor on a new furnace, how long that cost is good for. Schulz said until he picks it up.

Schulz said he wasn’t saying the cost was out of line, but that the city is basing decisions on bad engineering estimates.

In other action, the council:
• heard from Lee County Crimestoppers who donated $1,000 to the city’s new K9 program that will be in place in about three weeks. The donation was made to the Lee County K9 Association earmarked to help the FM program get off the ground.
• appointed Carmen Salazar to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
• approved an ordinance permitting Tiny Houses to be built within the city under certain conditions. The move paves the way for 2x4s for Hope to begin construction in the spring. The homes are aimed at veterans.
(Editor’s Note: This posting has been updated to reflect a correction in the K9 donation. The donation came from Lee County Crimestoppers to the Lee County K9 Association which earmarked the money for the FMPD program. The Current regrets and apologizes for the error. The photo accompanying the posting has also been updated.)

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