City Council delays sculpture purchase

BY CHRIS CLARK | APRIL 07, 2009 7:30 AM

Deferring the purchase of an $80,000 sculpture on Monday, Iowa City city councilors said it could be up to two years before they think about installing it at Water Works Prairie Park.

The council unanimously approved completing a deal with Dale Merrill, the artist hired to create a sculpture, which would consist of three separate components of trees designed to blow in the wind.˙

According to the agreement, if the project is not constructed, the city will pay Merrill $5,000 in two separate annual payments to compensate for his efforts. If the sculpture is eventually constructed and installed, those payments will be put toward the total cost of the project.

The council originally approved Merrill’s proposal on March 10, stirring controversy among local residents. Budget constraints and the economic recession forced the city to delay further progress.
Councilor Mike Wright said the new agreement “opens up a lot of options.”

The city can “gracefully exit” from the contract after the terms have been carried out or possibly work with the artist in a couple of years, he said.

Councilors also approved plans, specifications, and estimated costs for renovations of the Burlington Street pedestrian bridge.

The project includes plans to remove the concrete deck and expansion joints, as well as repair the handrails.

The project is estimated to cost between $409,300 to $592,300. The council noted the Iowa Department of Transportation will fund 50 percent of the project; the UI and the City Council will each fund 25 percent.

In other business, the city decided against rezoning roughly an acre of property located north of Rohret Road for space to develop moderate-priced, cluster housing.

“The county is responsible for vacating the area, so when it comes to the City Council, we can dictate what can be built there,” Councilor Connie Champion said.

Wright said the area, Slothower Road, is a dirt road that is so overgrown it’s nearly impossible to drive through, even in four-wheel drive.

Wright added some of the area would likely be used for green space, too.

But there is some concern.

“There is some worry that the wetland may be destroyed,” he said. “The leftover wetland may not be sufficient enough to handle runoff.”

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