The Rock Island bridge project deadline was extended at Thursday night’s Unified Government Commission meeting.
The UG Commission heard that the project date would be extended to July 2023 by 16 months, to finish in March 2024. If not extended, the project deadline would have been Dec. 31. The motion that passed would allow the UG to recover the cost of a bridge raise through TIF and CID proceeds.
The bridge will be an entertainment and trail connection, with places such as restaurants and bars locating on it. It would be the first such bridge project in the nation, according to developers. Lately, a zip line from the Bonner Springs area would be added near the bridge for more entertainment options.
The cost of the project would be $5.7 million, including a bridge raise recommended by UG engineers. The financing was not approved Thursday night.
The four-foot bridge raise would be necessary because of levee work going on by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Kansas River, according to UG staff. The bridge would need to be protected against a 400-year-flood. The bridge could overtop and surge at a 400-year-flood.
Flying Truss, which is the company developing the bridge, is ready to start construction in January, according to UG staff.
The bridge raise would cost $850,000, according to UG staff.
The Corps of Engineers has classified the bridge as a closed bridge and is not putting any funding toward it, according to UG staff.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he has been a proponent of the bridge project from the beginning, as it has a catalytic potential for developing the riverfront.
However, he was disappointed that the Army Corps of Engineers is raising a levee and the Corps has told them it’s the UG’s responsibility for funding the bridge raise.
McKiernan also said he was disappointed that they already voted on the funding, plans, development agreements and suddenly there are more costs that they haven’t considered. He is disappointed that it happened at this stage.
Commissioner Tom Burroughs also was stunned that there is an additional cost to the project. He asked if they had actually purchased the bridge from Kansas City, Missouri, yet.
Patrick Waters, UG attorney, said they have the deed in hand but not closed and recorded it yet.
Financing options were to be presented in January.
UG engineers said the project costs have gone up almost 25 percent since they started. Some redesign was necessary.
Mayor Tyrone Garner said the community deserves to have down to the dollar information and they need to see where every penny is going. They simply do not have the money for increased expenses.
He said there was a communications lapse, a breakdown where something has gone critically wrong somewhere in the UG with communications and it was unacceptable.
The motion to extend the deadline passed 9-1 with Commissioner Gayle Townsend voting no because she was not clear about the nature of the moton. Later she said she supports the bridge project.
Mayor Garner said they had to hold UG staff accountable so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
Management style came up later in the night’s discussion about the change to the rules and procedures governing the mayor and commission in setting the agenda. Commissioner Mike Kane brought up the bridge accountability discussion and said it wasn’t nice for the mayor to talk to a staff member like that in public, until she started crying.
“If you don’t like what I’m doing, pull me in room and talk to me. Don’t beat me up in public,” Kane said.