City cuts shelter plans

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

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After hitting a snag, the new Iowa City animal shelter is back on track.

“We’re going back to the bidding community with a revised set of plans,” said Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek. “We really had no choice but to reduce the scope of the project.”

The project aims to replace the old animal center, which was irreparably damaged in the 2008 flood. The animal shelter now resides at a temporary location, which has struggled with overcrowding.

Now, after making some cutbacks to the project, the council has once again opened the bidding process.

“We made about 26 changes to the building and the site plans, resulting in about [$700,000] worth of cuts,” said Iowa City architectural services coordinator Kumi Morris. “There are some changes to certain elements of the animal spaces.”

Some of the specific changes include changing some stone construction to wood and reducing the space in the cat isolation area.

“We tried to make the cuts deep enough … that we could be under those estimates,” City Manager Tom Markus said. “Hopefully, we get good bids.”

City officials began accepting bids for the project in March but were met with an unfortunate truth when bids were opened later in the month.

Even the lowest of the nine bids was more than $900,000 above the city’s $2.7 million estimate. This is a margin of more than 33 percent, which is too high to even consider accepting the bid.

Hayek said the bids make it clear that it is the project needs to be changed, and the city’s original estimate was clearly too low.

“These bids were all high, but they were all close to each other,” he said. “Generally, the estimates we get are accurate. Apparently in this instance, it was not.”

The project is being funded by a combination of local governments, fundraising, and funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The FEMA funds are integral to paying for the project, and will only be given if the project is completed before a certain date. This makes the process even more urgent, Markus said.

“To go back and renegotiate would put us into a time sequence that would jeopardize our FEMA funding,” he said. “The critical part now is to get the building up and operating with FEMA funds.”
While the cutbacks are significant, Markus said, the city would be able to revisit the shelter later on to more closely resemble the original proposal.

“After we get this facility built, we can look at additions as funds become available,” he said.

In addition to the FEMA funding, the lack of a suitable animal shelter demands a response.

“We’ve been in an … insufficient facility ever since the flood,” Councilor Susan Mims said. “We need to get into a more adequate facility.”

The bidding process will end, for the second time, later this month.

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