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The Salmon City Council has been forced to make a very difficult decision due to the extremely expensive bids that came in for building the Island Park Bridge as designed. At the September 16 meeting the council voted to scrap the Northwest Engineering design and look for a new engineer and design.

Of the two bids submitted the low bid to build the bridge as designed was from Cannon Builders and totaled $381,583.24. The highest bid was $475,631.

Two options were presented at the meeting by Community Development Coordinator Mary Cerise who reported that all construction work on the bridge deck has been halted. She also said she is working on getting extensions on the existing permits and is receiving some allowances on the funding time-lines. She said one choice was to begin a new bidding process with the existing design and approach every bridge builder in Idaho to see if a lower bid can be found. The second choice was to shell out another possible $30,000 for a new engineering design. Cerise said if the process to find a new engineer and design began immediately the city could probably have drawings by the end of December and put the project out for bid next January or February.

In the opinion of Engineer Steve Frazee re-bidding the existing design would result in bids similar to the ones just received. In answer to frustrations voiced by council members he said one reason for the high bids was the fact the engineer’s cost estimate on the bridge abutments was off by around 150 per cent. He said it is the engineer’s responsibility to make sure the estimates are accurate. According to Frazee the Gabion basket style of abutment construction is extremely labor intensive in that so much of it has to be done by hand. He said there are more cost effective ways.

As to any recourse, Councilman and retired engineer Jim Baker reminded the council that ultimately the council selected the engineer who then offered design selections and the council made a decision on which type of bridge to have him design. Baker said the engineer designed it and the council accepted the design then it went out for bid and the result was way too high. He agreed with the option of starting over.

Finance Director Amy Fealko was asked to break down all the numbers. She started by saying the city does have the money to cover the low bid however, spending it would totally deplete the non-reserve portion of the contingency fund. She then recounted what it would take to come up with the low bid amount. Promised grants total $170,000. She said the city previously approved a total of $139,000. To meet the $381,583 bid that came in would require another $250,403 from the city. Deleting the asphalt surfacing would lower the price by $54,600 leaving a balance owed of $195,803. Fealko went on to say $108,000 could come out of the General Fund contingency which would leave only $799.41 above the minimum 35 percent of the contingency’s required cushion. Monies offered from other funds reduced the balance that would be owed a bit further but the bottom line was in order to handle the cost, a new bid would have to come in at $300,000 or less.

According to Cerise, if there is a bright side it is the fact there are many pieces already in place. She said the city now owns some of the materials such as the $127,000, 80 foot long bridge beams and deck as well as having all the geo technical studies and hydrology information on hand. The bid specifications will include using those materials in the new design.

The council vote to start over was unanimous.
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