Engineer on Cedar Rapids council asks about construction costs

City demolition contract at the site of the new City Services Center project has grown to nearly double

Rick Smith
Published: April 8 2014 | 3:40 pm - Updated: 8 April 2014 | 10:14 pm in News,

CEDAR RAPIDS — Elect an engineer to the City Council and you might get more questions about city construction projects.

That’s what happened Tuesday when first-year council member Ralph Russell, retired CEO at engineering firm HR Green, quizzed Public Works Director Dave Elgin, asking why the city demolition contract at the site of the new City Services Center project has grown to nearly double its initial size.

The initial demolition contract to D.W. Zinser Co. of Walford was for $489,000, but it has now grown to $909,812.

The new $36-million City Services Center at 500 15th Ave. SW is replacing the flood-damaged, former home of the Public Works Department, which had been a crane manufacturing plant in its prior life.

Change orders on city construction projects that typically increase costs are commonplace, so much so that Russell had to ask to get the increase in the demolition contract pulled from the council’s no-questions-asked consent agenda.

Russell then asked if the city properly investigated the scope of the project before it sought bids for the work and if Elgin could explain what caused the project’s cost to rise precipitously.

Elgin told Russell that the demolition crews found surprises on the site. He said the assumption had been that basements from earlier eras of buildings had been removed as the manufacturing plant on the site built new and expanded. However, there was more underground "on the large and expansive" site than had been assumed, Elgin said.

Manufacturing buildings were built "piece by piece over 60 years," he said.

Elgin said contingency funds built into the project budget were sufficient to cover the additional costs of demolition.

The new City Services Center is now home to several city departments, including public works, parks and recreation, the city assessor, development services, building services and solid waste & recycling.

Work continues on the large vehicle maintenance and storage area at the complex where the former building once stood.

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