Wednesday, September 26, 2012
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Aldermen question engineering costs for Oglesby Avenue bridge

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[September 26, 2012]  In February of 2011, then-city engineer Mark Mathon informed the Lincoln City Council that the bridge over Brainard's Branch on Oglesby Avenue was no longer safe for vehicular traffic and would need to be replaced.

Unfortunately there was no money in the city budget to take on such a project, so the bridge was temporarily closed and let go to wait for the new fiscal year.

Over time, discussions turned to whether or not the bridge was actually needed. Residents along Oglesby were seemingly not bothered by the lack of means to cross Brainard's Branch, and aldermen concluded that perhaps the city would be wise to demolish the bridge and save that money for something more crucial.

This summer, the problem of the bridge was resolved when it was decided that the city would contract to have the bridge torn out and a cul-de-sac created on each side of it. Bid packages were prepared and went out to contractors.

In the time between the bid packages going out and coming back, Mathon resigned his position with the city, and Prairie Engineers of Illinois was hired to serve as interim engineers for the city.

When the bids came in, Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers expressed concern over the specifications for the work, and in the end the city rejected all bids on the project.

At that same time, Forgy talked to the council about developing a five-year capital improvement plan for the city infrastructure. He suggested that major projects be put on hold until a plan was developed. This included the bridge on Oglesby.

Tuesday evening Marty Neitzel, who chairs the street and alley committee, said she wanted to put on the voting agenda approval of a work order for Prairie Engineers for the engineering work for the Oglesby project. The work order in the amount of $10,980 was for the engineering of the bridge project, design of the cul-de-sac, conducting a topical survey and developing the documents for the bid specifications.

It was noted that the amount would cover hours of service in addition to the monthly contract amount the city is currently paying Prairie Engineers.

During discussion Buzz Busby was the first to ask why this was being considered.

Forgy said that acting now would mean that the city could go forward with the bidding process and have construction started by early spring. He said it was fairly certain that the bridge on Oglesby would be at the top of the five-year capital improvement plan, so it seemed like it would be good to move forward and get it out of the way.

Tom O'Donohue asked if this fee was for the design of the bridge coming out. He wondered if this was work that had already been done for the first round of bids by the former engineer.

Mayor Keith Snyder said it had not been done for the original bid packet. Forgy explained that in the bid package there were concept documents, but no actual design. He said it had been intended that the design of the cul-de-sac would be laid out in the field after the bid was awarded.

He also noted that in the original bid packet there were no specifications for grading of the area for curb and gutter work.

O'Donohue said he just wondered why this project had been bid once, now it was being bid again, plus there was this extra $10,000 going into the project. He wondered if all this was really necessary.

Forgy said that even if the original bid had been awarded, this work would still have had to be done.

O'Donohue then asked about the monthly fee the city is paying Prairie Engineers and wondered why this wasn't a part of it. He said he was concerned about seeing these types of extra costs with future projects.

Snyder said that when the city hired Prairie Engineers, they did so with a contract that specified the number of hours the firm would work for the city. This project will exceed those hours. He said the design of the cul-de-sac and removal of the bridge were hours above and beyond the firm's contract.

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Forgy added that the city could increase the number of hours in the contract, but he really wouldn't recommend it. He said that by doing it this way, the city would be able to charge whatever fund is paying for the project for the engineering as well.

Currently, the engineering contract is split between the city's general fund and the sewer fund. Forgy noted, for example, that if the money for the build were coming out of the infrastructure fund, the design could also come out of that fund.

O'Donohue also wondered why the engineers had decided to go forward with this project, when a few weeks ago it had been tabled to await the five-year plan.

Melody Anderson lives on Oglesby Avenue, just a short distance from the bridge. She said she felt there were some safety concerns at the bridge that perhaps made it important to go forward with this project.

She said she really didn't believe the bridge is going to cave in if someone drives across it, but it is closed. There are barricades up, but often she and her husband, Andy, walk to the bridge and find that the barricades have been moved. She said they put the barricades back where they belong quite often.

She also noted there are supposed to be flashing lights on the barricades, but she often finds they are not working.

Forgy noted that one good reason to start now on the project is to protect the city from price increases in the future. He also noted that very soon the Illinois Department of Transportation will start letting out bid packages for the spring, and contractors will become scarce.

Going back to the reason for the added cost, Snyder commented that in the past it has not been unusual to have additional engineering done on a project. It was noted that engineers were hired to do work on the Fifth Street project as well as others.

Anderson said she never really understood why, when the city had an engineer on the payroll, they often ended up hiring another one for design work.

Jonie Tibbs said she understood the need for additional work on the project. She said she felt the city would want to get the project started right away so it would end up as it should.

Discussion on the topic dwindled after that, and Neitzel asked that the approval of the work order be added to next week's voting agenda.

Having the item on the agenda indicates it will come to a vote next Monday night. However, the council has the right to table any item they are not prepared to vote on.


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