Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

August 17, 2012

Committee blasts holes in Safe Routes to School sidewalk funding gap

By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — The Safe Routes to School project in Centerville is closer to reality than it appeared a few days ago.

But first, some things have to fall into place.

Those "things" were the main topics of discussion at Tuesday morning's Safe Routes to School committee meeting at City Hall.

Funding is the big thing and how to come up with at least a $75,000 construction budget deficit based on the low bid of $295,796 from TK Concrete the city rejected in August of 2011.

Nancy Huisman with Hall Engineering said the $75,000 is probably still close to what the city needs to come up with.

Using the $75,000 construction budget deficit as a starting point, the committee since its first meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9 has made great strides to close the gap.

Huisman has volunteered her services to redesign the plans and specifications for the project due to changes in government standards, which is an estimated savings of approximately $20,000.

"The plans have already been designed and approved by the DOT," Huisman said. "Since the project had gone through the DOT letting process, they have since changed their requirements and they're requiring additional plan sheets."

Huisman pointed out her firm is making a big contribution to the project by not charging re-engineering fees and not knowing if the funds will be secured to finish the project.

"We are putting in a significant amount of time and a significant amount of our personal resources," Huisman said. "I too have a hard time moving forward knowing that the funds aren't secured. But I'm willing to do that."

The city street department has offered to perform in-kind service for the project by removing the old concrete, which is an estimated savings of approximately $30,000.

Jim Milani, who owns property along the route, has said he would donate $5,000 towards the project. Hometown Realty has said they will give $500 and Kim Crego has donated $100 to the sidewalk project.

Milani at first thought he could replace his section of sidewalk along the route, but was told it would change the scope of the project. He expressed reservations about his donation not knowing if the project would be built or scraped.

"And I'd like to work anyway if this moves the project along," he said. "I want it to be a part of this project."

Other cost savings measures discussed Tuesday included a voluntary assessment from the people who live along the route; extend the DOT requirement that the project be completed in 25 working days; a local contractor has indicated he would be willing to reduce his profit margin if hired for the project; use a local contractor and save approximately $40,000 in mobilization fees; the school district at one time offered to plow snow off the route; ask Ideal Ready Mix, the only supplier of concrete in the area that is certified, for a discount; and use the old concrete as rip rap at Lelah Bradley reservoir with the savings going into the project.

Crego said the city this week is going to send a letter to the residents along the route explaining the benefits of the project and the school district's prior promise to remove snow. The letter will also explain the need for a voluntary assessment.

"So I think there are already are significant contributions to the project," Crego said. "People are stepping up. People do understand the importance of the project and we want to see it completed."

The next step is to have preliminary plans done and submitted to the DOT by Oct. 16 with a bid letting on March 19, 2013.

The committee has been subdivided into three groups with each group charged with looking at different aspects of the sidewalk project to get it under budget.

Looking at design and plans are Huisman, Jason Oglesby and Richard Smith.

Looking at local contractors qualifying with the Iowa DOT process, which would lower the cost of the project by reducing mobilization fees are Milani, Jim Senior and Neil MacArthur.

Looking at funding are Crego, Marilyn Vanderlinden and Mark Hoffman.

Attending Tuesday's 10 a.m. were Crego, city clerk and commissioner of municipal services, Senior, Centerville mayor, Tony Ryan, Centerville School District superintendent, Huisman, Oglesby, Hoffman, Appanoose County Conservation Board director, Vanderlinden, resident along the route, Milani, owner of property along the route and Smith, Centerville City Council.

During the meeting, Ryan said the sidewalk is a good idea.

"Anything that keeps the environment safer ... for all of our kids in the school system, you know, I'm on board with that," he said.

The SRTS committee's next meeting is at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21 at City Hall.

The nearly mile-long six-foot wide concrete sidewalk would run between Lakeview Elementary and Howar Junior High School predominately along South Main Street.

Centerville received a $249,595 Iowa DOT grant in 2009 to help fund the sidewalk project.