Council to mull shelter's future

BY DANIEL SEIDL | APRIL 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City officials have two choices — they can bite the bullet and pay an additional $1 million or scale back on their plans for the new animal shelter.

The city were met with unfortunate news when it opened the bids for the animal-center project on March 27. The city received nine bids ranging from $3.65 million to $3.94 million, with the lowest more than 35 percent higher than the city’s estimate of $2.7 million.

The Iowa City City Council was scheduled to accept a bid for the project at its April 1 meeting, but the council will instead consider rejecting the bids and rebidding the project at a special meeting today.

“I think it’s unfortunate, but you know, it is what it is,” said Kym Leyden, the executive director of the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation. “The nine contractors who bid were very close, [so] clearly that’s what the project is going to cost.”

But some officials say the cost can be adjusted.

“We’re looking at reducing scope, while at the same time trying to maintain the number of animals,” said Iowa City architectural services coordinator Kumi Morris. “Those scope changes will not affect the animal count and operation.”

The main reason for the high bids was the amount of construction taking place in Iowa City. This reduced the number of bids, Morris said.

“We had nine general contractors bid, but the difficulty is getting subcontractors to bid,” she said. “We weren’t getting competitive bids in that regard.”

Morris said there were many areas of the project where only one subcontractor had bid. The size of the project must decrease to meet the city’s estimate, and one thing in particular officials will consider is removing the fence around the facility.

Local governments, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the foundation are funding the project. The foundation has pledged $1 million to the project over five years, and it made its first $200,000 contribution last year.

But Leyden said the rebidding will not stop the foundation from helping the city.

“We’ll continue to do what we can do fundraising wise,” she said. “We’ve got to get it done by May 2015 or we’ll lose our FEMA funding.”

FEMA will reimburse $1.4 million of the project’s cost because of the 2008 flood, which destroyed the old shelter.

Morris said the rebidding process will not delay construction of the animal center.

“The timeline that we had set previously was more than ample,” she said. “We’re looking to stay on track with the construction date.”

City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said the council will discuss staff recommendations today.

“The staff has made recommendations to us, and we’ll elaborate Monday night,” he said. “We’ll have to cut back on it somehow.”

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