Despite a number of setbacks and disappointments concerning the 6th Street pedestrian bridge, the Pagosa Springs Town Council voted last week to move forward with the project in hopes that it will be completed and ready to use by the end of 2014.
The first bit of bad news came in May, when Town Planner James Dickhoff reported the town’s application for a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado had been awarded, but there was a catch.
“GOCO staff has recommended that our grant be funded for the Sixth Street pedestrian bridge,” Dickhoff explained on May 22. “However, in the course of their determination, they did receive sixty applications, and we were ranked nine out of those sixty. We were the last grant application they were able to recommend for funding, but through that process they did somewhat run out of money, so they only had $242,000 remaining versus our requested $350,000.”
Dickhoff explained that while the town did have the option to reject the partial award and resubmit an application for the next grant cycle in the fall — and the feedback he had received from GOCO staff indicated the town had a very strong application — there was no guarantee, especially after last September’s flooding on the Front-Range, other towns could come forward with more pressing needs.
In addition, the property owner on the east side of the river had only granted an easement until 2015; if the bridge is not in place by then, the town would have to renegotiate a new easement agreement.
After much debate, town council decided to accept the reduced grant amount and move ahead with the project.
Council was then given four different design options for the bridge structure itself, including one with a 10-foot-wide deck and another with an observation platform mid-span. Considering the town had not received the full amount of grant funding it had expected, council decided to go with the cheapest option — an 8-foot-wide deck and no extra features.
However, at the June 19 meeting, Dickhoff came back to council with more bad news.
There had been some sort of miscommunication between the bridge manufacturer and town staff. The bridge design that council had chosen in May turned out to be $21,000 more than the previously quoted price. The town could change the order to a bridge of the same price as it had originally ordered, but it would have a different design.
When Mayor Don Volger asked for comments from council members, Kathy Lattin referenced a picture of the alternative design and said, “That is ugly. I don’t like it at all. It is hideous and absurd.”
Councilor Tracy Bunning agreed and asked if there was another bridge vendor the town could use.
Councilor John Egan asked who was responsible for the mix-up.
“I think we will share the responsibility,” Dickhoff responded. “We thought they were referencing this bridge,” Dickhoff brought up a slide on his computer, “when they were actually referencing this bridge.” Dickhoff indicated the second design option. “I will certainly accept responsibility for not recognizing that in their quote … It was really the format in which they gave us the quote.”
While councilor David Schanzenbaker suggested this new information had put the town back to square one, and asked that the council be given the chance to reconsider all the design options again at the July 1 meeting, Volger directed staff to explain the situation to the manufacturer and ask if they could negotiate on the price.
At the July 1 meeting, Dickhoff re-presented all of the design options with the new price structure, but then announced, “I was able to negotiate lowering the price and getting the additions at cost and absorbing the redesign, so the additional cost is no longer twenty-one thousand dollars; I was able to negotiate it down to twenty-one hundred dollars.”
Dickhoff reassured council this was the design they had originally picked and that it would match the other two bridges already in existence at Centennial Park and Town Park.
Councilor Clint Alley made a motion to direct staff to move ahead with the purchase of the bridge, which passed unanimously.