BIg Rapids eyes scaled-back version of Maple Street project

BIG RAPIDS — Plans to improve Maple Street and Mitchell Creek Park are at the mercy of the contractor and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) because of a discrepancy in the total cost.

City Manager Steve Sobers told Big Rapids City Commissioners Monday that staff and engineer Todd Richter, of engineering firm Fleis and VandenBrink have proposed a scaled-back version of the project to the two entities.

Sobers explained any cut in the total cost requires approval from the MEDC. The Maple Street and Mitchell Creek Park improvements are part of a $410,204 Downtown Infrastructure Grant from the MEDC.

Making cuts to the project could lower the criteria score and result in losing the grant, Sobers said.

“We expect to hear back from the MEDC on Tuesday to see if we still meet the criteria of the DIG grant,” Sobers said. “Staff has met with Todd to craft a plan that will still be effective and not delete too many of the critical elements in the project to bring it in budget.”

The city wants to use the funds to address storm water needs, provide funds for sidewalk replacement and revamp downtown lighting. The total project cost is estimated to be nearly $483,600, which includes a local match of $73,400. The lowest project bid was $650,000 from J. Ranck Electric Inc., which was nearly 250,000 over engineers estimates for the project.

The revised project proposal presented to the commission shows the engineers estimate of more than $295,000 and estimates the contractor cost to be more than $380,000.

Mayor Mark Warba asked why there is nearly an $88,000 difference from the engineers estimate and the contractor’s bid.

Mayor Mark Warba

Mayor Mark Warba

Richter explained that there are fewer contractors, more projects and it is a bad time of the year to go out for bids.

“The contractors explained to me it was a busy time of the year for them and they don’t necessarily have the need for work right now. We also are seeing an increase in material and subcontractor cost,” Richter said.

Sobers told commissioners Big Rapids is not the only municipality seeing higher bids.

“This particular snapshot and time all bids have come in high on DIG Projects,” Sobers said.

Proposed cuts to lower the overall cost eliminated the transit bus stop to save $36,000, reduced electrical work and less flower pots, among other amenities that could be added later. The electric car charging station remained because of its criteria scoring for the grant.

With the proposed cuts Warba expressed the project should still remain quality.

“I don’t want to see the project go away because we can’t bring it in budget and at that same time I don’t want to look around at $400,000 in improvements and only find one tree,” Warba said.

Warba believes a cost solution isn’t much of a concern, for the project if it is a modest increase to the city’s contribution.

“There is a cause for concern but its not a panic or cut-and-run concern,” Warba said referring to the project cost. “We still have a worth-while project to preserve and a will from the city to do so. Commissioners may face cost of not going forward and I do not want to over extend the process. If we scale down the project and there is a modest increase to our contribution, we may look to find a way for the project to go forward.”

The city could lose its grant funding for the project because MEDC completion deadline for the project is Dec. 31.

Sobers expects commissioners should be able to take action on the project on at the next commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 4, at City Hall.

“We are still in negotiations with the contractor and waiting to here back from the MEDC,” Sobers said. “There is no concern that project will not move forward in a more reasonable scaled-back plan. I anticipate we will legislation to view at the next meeting.”

In other actions, commissioners approved the refurbishing of two city dump trucks at $11,000 and the rebuild of another dump truck for $61,000.

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Posted by Lonnie Allen

Lonnie is the Pioneer's city/county reporter. He also coordinates the Gardens and Growers page. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8328 or by e-mail at lallen@pioneergroup.com.

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