The city has been plagued with issues regarding this project, many
of them due to the lack of sufficient funds to actually repair or
replace the bridge.
The saga began in February 2011 when then-city
engineer Mark Mathon reported to the city that the bridge was no
longer safe for vehicle traffic. The bridge was immediately closed,
and aldermen began discussing its future. Replacement of the bridge
was estimated then to cost well over $250,000 -- money the city
didn't have in its budget.
As time progressed, discussion turned to looking at alternatives
to replacing the bridge. Melody Anderson, who lives on Oglesby,
noted that in the neighborhood, there didn't seem to be a great deal
of concern over the fact that the bridge was closed.
Aldermen then began discussing whether the bridge should be
replaced or should just be demolished. In the end they made the
decision to demolish it and save the money that might have been
spent on replacement for the time when one of the other bridges
crossing Brainard's Branch might need attention.
In those discussions it was noted that the bridges on Jefferson,
Grand, Palmer and Union were all of similar construction and age. Of
those four, aldermen considered that Jefferson, Palmer and Union
were all more traveled than Oglesby and would cause a problem for
the related neighborhoods if they would have to be closed.
Discussions that continued for the next several months addressed
questions such as whether the bridge could be saved for walking
traffic, if it should be taken out, and if so, how the new dead ends
should be finished, if there a need for cul-de-sacs, and more.
In the meantime, the bridge was continuing to deteriorate. This
year city engineer Darren Forgy told the council he didn't feel the
bridge would be safe for foot traffic. Even as recently as last
week, he told the council that with some dollars invested, the
bridge could be made safe, but it would be only a temporary fix. He
estimated that within the next couple of years the bridge would be a
hazard to any type of traffic.
Earlier this year the city went out for bids for a demolition
project that would include removing the bridge and doing some finish
work at the dead ends. The proposal at that time included doing some
curb work and installing permanent barriers to keep vehicles from
accidentally driving into the drainage ditch. There were also plans
to include some type of decorative element, such as landscaping or
planters, to make the area more attractive for Oglesby Avenue
Included in that plan, the city would hire contractors for the
demolition, and city street crews would be used to do much of the
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But, when the bids came back, the cost of demolition was much more
than expected. The bids were rejected, and the city attempted to
combine the Oglesby project with another, larger project: Pulaski
Street. But they got no takers on that.
Two weeks ago, Stark Excavating was awarded the bid for the
Pulaski Street project, and last week Forgy reported that he had
talked to Stark about taking on Oglesby as well.
Forgy said he began by asking Stark to match the original low bid
of $35,000 for the Oglesby work, but Stark said he couldn't do that.
The lowest he would be able to go was $38,250.
Forgy said one of the big issues driving the cost up was the fact
that the city had no place close by where the debris from the bridge
could be hauled. Stark had told Forgy that if the city could provide
such a place within 4 miles of the bridge, he would lower the price,
but that wasn't possible.
Last week the council discussed postponing the project once
again, but Marty Neitzel pointed out that with each delay, the cost
gets higher. She quipped that by next year, the same bid could cost
$70,000, and Anderson agreed.
According to Sue McLaughlin, city administrator, the city can
stretch the budget to cover the demolition cost, but there won't be
money this year to do the finish work.
The council decided to move forward with the demolition, put up
temporary barriers at the dead end and try to incorporate the finish
work into next year's budget.
The council has had to deal with problems of bids and costs
coming in too high on several projects. The Pulaski Street project
came in with a bid cost of $1.7 million and an estimated final cost
of $2.1 million, considerably higher than expected.
Aldermen have expressed that they are determined to get at least
some of these projects started, if not completed, this year, and
McLaughlin has told them it is possible, but it will stifle cash
flow in the infrastructure budget, and somewhere down the road,
other projects may have to be postponed until more money is
In the meantime, demolition of the Oglesby bridge will begin
early next month, and the Pulaski Street project will begin yet this
fall, with expectations that at least one block will be finished
before cold weather sets in.
[By NILA SMITH]