City approves additional funds for bridge project

ADDITIONAL FUNDING: City commissioners approved extra funding for engineering firm Fleis and VandenBrink for extra design work on the expanded Baldwin Street Bridge project. Commissioner Dan Rothstein (left) and Mayor Mark Warba discuss the increased payment. (Pioneer photo/Jonathan Eppley)

BIG RAPIDS — With the Baldwin Street Bridge reconstruction project expanded to include infrastructure improvements, re-alignment of the road and demolition of the Hanchett Manufacturing building, the city is incurring extra costs.

City commissioners approved additional payment on Monday to engineering firm Fleis and VandenBrink for extra design work on the expanded project. The company will be paid a total of $736,300 for its services throughout the expanded Industrial Park Infrastructure Improvement project, which includes funds previously approved for payment.

“The project includes more work on the part of the engineers for ancillary design,” said City Manager Steve Sobers. “The original agreement we had was for $129,000, which was the planning and design services for the bridge only. Their engineering costs have been elevated to $244,000, … and the construction engineering portion is $492,000, for a total of $736,000.”

Although engineering costs may be increasing, the city will pay less than what it would have paid had the project not been expanded, Sobers said.

“If we were doing the bridge alone, the city would have been on the hook for about $1.5 million of the construction of the bridge,” Sobers said. “The (U.S. Economic Development Administration) is covering the engineering costs for the demolition of the Hanchett building, which the (Michigan Department of Transportation) would not. We’ll also have some construction of the walkway underneath the bridge to tie in the Riverwalk and we’ll have some water line costs, but overall our project obligation has dropped with the EDA coming on board.”

The city applied for the EDA grant in September to align the Muskegon River crossing with the intersection at State and West Pere Marquette streets. The project also includes new water mains and storm sewers crossing the river and reconfiguring a portion of the Riverwalk.

Hanchett Manufacturing agreed to sell its building, located at 906 N. State St., and adjoining 5-acres of land to the city for the appraised price of $514,000, contingent upon approval of the federal grant. The city is in the process of soliciting bids from banking institutions to purchase the property.

If the grant is approved, federal funding would be used for the actual bridge replacement, street approach reconstruction, storm sewer improvements and demolition of the Hanchett building.

In February 2011, the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Critical Bridge Replacement program committed about $3 million toward the bridge reconstruction project. The majority of that funding — nearly $2.5 million — is slated for the bridge reconstruction, with the remaining $530,000 for the bridge approaches.

City Manager Steve Sobers

The city’s contribution to the bridge project will be $225,000. The purchase of the Hanchett property would be an additional cost to the city.

“This project has gone from a facelift for the Baldwin Street Bridge to an extreme makeover at that intersection,” said Mayor Mark Warba, who supported the increase in pay for Fleis and VandenBrink. “I don’t know how we can take on all of this without the costs that increase as a result of it. It may be an extreme makeover, but it will be an attractive one.”

Commissioners also formally accepted an environmental review by consultant firm Soil and Materials Engineers Inc. (SME).

They had previously tabled accepting the report on Feb. 4 to gather more information from the firm. Engineers from SME were unable to attend that meeting.

SME Engineer Jeff Edwards on Monday outlined four areas of concern identified, but told commissioners that they are easily fixable. He noted that remediation of the soil would not be necessary.

“If you look back at the history of the building and compare the original levels of contamination to what’s here today, it’s extremely minimal,” Edwards said. “In moving forward with the construction of the bridge project, most of the contamination in these isolated areas will either not need to be disturbed or that material can be placed under the new street.”

In other news, commissioners also approved an additional payment of $34,312 for PKB Architects for design services for the Big Rapids Community Library.

Pat Birtles, owner of the Cadillac-based firm, previously alerted commissioners of the increased cost because the city changed the project after he had started drafting designs.

The proposed $860,000 renovation project includes weatherproofing the basement, addressing the weight-bearing capacity of the floors, realignment of space, fresh interior paint, window repair, carpet and asbestos removal and redesign of the main entrance and book drop area. Other renovations will include a larger children’s area, dedicated adult and teen areas, additional computer stations, new circulation desks, increased storage space and new roofing.

“There were a number of things that happened that has resulted in using up the dollars that were originally allocated,” Sobers said. “We had given Pat a direction of about a $1 million project, which he did and completed. Then the review team wanted to see if they could reduce that cost. So it went from about $999,000 to a $860,000 project, which took some extra work on his part to redesign it.”

The city commission will meet next at 6:30 p.m. on March 4 at City Hall.

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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