Sidewalk replacement project costs on the northside Brainerd project exceeded estimates, but the Brainerd council indicated Monday night it is divided as to whether the city should pick up the tab.
City engineer Jeff Hulsether said the project assessment costs were about 6 percent to 10 percent more than estimated on average. He said the increase in cost came from an estimate based on 100,000 square feet for the project that ended up being 80,000 square feet after a number of people opted out. Engineering costs were then distributed among the smaller group and there were a few overruns for grade material to raise sidewalk elevation and more staff time spent on specific parcels.
Hulsether said if property owners had questions or concerns about work quality or the assessment, he was willing to meet with them.
Mike Brusseau, northside resident, said if he had known about the rising costs he may not have made the decision to go ahead with the project. Other homeowners agreed. Leonard Stock said he had issues with the quality and only went with the project instead of doing it himself because the estimate was originally reasonable. Pamela Stock said the assessment is $700 to $900 more than estimated.
Others living on a fixed income said the costs had gone up 22 percent to 28 percent.
Tom Stevens said he was glad the council went forward with the project and costs were reasonable. He also praised staff members. Others agreed.
Hulsether pointed out the contractor will be back in the spring to make sure grass is re-established.
Council member Bob Olson, who was also assessed as a northside homeowner ,said a quote from the city should have been good and Olson wanted a comparison with costs from other city projects such as the one in northeast Brainerd on H Street.
Council member Gary Scheeler said costs were 30 to 40 percent less than if individual homeowners would have done the job on their own separately.
Council member Mary Koep suggested the city pick up the difference in the estimate versus the assessments -- at $22,000. She said the sidewalks are the homeowners' responsibility under the ordinance but they benefit the general public. Council member Anne Nelson Fisher agreed with the public benefit.
The original project cost was $270,000. Council member Kelly Bevans seconded Koep's motion.
Council President Jim Dehen said he would not support the motion or any other city contracts for sidewalk projects. Dehen said the homeowners have the cost and if it is up to the city to eat every overrun from an estimate the city would not be involved in the future. He said the motion was clearly precedent-setting.
Bevans disagreed and said the issue came with the failure to notify homeowners of the change saying the cost is more. There was scattered applause, which Dehen cut off.
The motion passed with Scheeler and Dehen opposed.
A related motion to compare costs to other city projects comparing total project costs failed with Koep and Olson in favor.
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