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UPDATED: Fox Point trustees OK grant to Footbridge Friends

Village may give more, reimbursement required

The decades-old span that connects Bridge Lane and Barnett Lane is closed now, but was open in this 2010 photo.

The decades-old span that connects Bridge Lane and Barnett Lane is closed now, but was open in this 2010 photo. Photo By Michael Sears

Aug. 22, 2012

Updated to include comment from Director of Public Works Scott Brandmeier regarding project cost estimates.  

Fox Point - The Village Board voted Monday to grant local nonprofit Footbridge Friends $30,000 so the group can attempt to raise $625,000 for the controversial replacement of the Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge.

That money will go to In Progress Consulting, which will lead the fundraising effort, and its subcontractor Clear Verve Marketing.

Though the total cost of all the contracting work, as laid out by In Progress, could total more than $45,000, the Village Board opted to give enough for the first four months of fundraising - $30,000 - and potentially approve the rest at a later date.

"This will give (Footbridge Friends) a reasonable amount of time to justify an increased amount," Trustee Eric Fonstad said.

Trustees Fonstad and F.R. Dengel were adamant that Footbridge Friends reimburse any money given by the village, and an amendment to the resolution was made that Footbridge Friends be obligated to make that repayment.

The resolution passed, 4-1, with Trustee William Warner dissenting, saying that he would rather bring the footbridge issue to referendum.

Fundraising timeline

Footbridge Friends, with the $30,000 approved by the Village Board, will have enough money to pay for fundraising through Nov. 14, when the second phase of In Progress' proposed fundraising schedule concludes.

The first phase outlined by In Progress consultant Amalia Schoone, slated for the period between Aug. 20 and Sep. 30, focuses on creating a "case statement" to express their argument and appeal for the footbridge, canvassing for and interviewing potential donors, and the training of Footbridge Friends members on fundraising.

Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 14, in the second phase, Footbridge Friends and In Progress would look to secure the majority of its goal through private donations and pledges, aiming to take in $600,000 of its $625,000 goal.

The third phase, which the village did not authorize payment for, though it may in the future, would take place between Nov. 15 and Feb. 15, during which time donations and pledges would be tallied and a report would be prepared for the Village Board on Jan. 31. As the fundraising period comes to a close, In Progress and Footbridge Friends would launch a public campaign to secure the remainder of its goal by Feb. 15.

How much to spend?

Initially, members of the Village Board were looking to fund the third phase of the fundraising effort, but with a spending limit.

"I'm wondering whether or not we can make a reasonable cap, so everyone knows what the village is committing to," Village President Michael West said.

As outlined in the In Progress proposal, the total consulting fees for the third phase would be $4,500 per month plus $650 per month for clerical assistance - though printing, postage and photography costs were not included in that estimate.

Board members totaled those figures and came up with $15,450 for the third phase, and considered amending the resolution to approve up to $45,450.

Proponents of the fundraising effort implored the Village Board to grant payment for all three phases.

"We've had every expectation along the way that this will be a successful project," Footbridge Friends President Barbara Schwartz said, after board members began to consider approving payments for only phases one and two, "but it just seems like we're getting our hands tied as we proceed here."

Trustee Christine Symchych agreed.

"If the board cannot give the money to see this through and see the group succeed, then nobody is benefiting," Symchych said.

Longtime vocal opponent of the footbridge replacement Larry Booth chastised the board for even considering giving money to the group for fundraising.

"If this private organization needs a marketing company, that's their problem to solve," Booth said, "not the taxpayers'."

He called into question the idea that $625,000 truly represents half of the cost of the project, referring to a March 2012 study by The Boldt Company that estimated the cost of replacement at $1.45 to $1.75 million.

"To sit here is being dishonest as hell, talking about six hundred and twenty-five thousand (dollars)," said Booth, maintaining that the village should go to referendum to decide the fate of the bridge.

Director of Public Works Scott Brandmeier said Wednesday morning that the village is approximating the cost of the construction in the middle of the estimates, at $1.5 million.  From there, he said, the village isn't factoring in the cost of removal - estimated at $250,000 - because, unless the choice is made to rehabilitate the footbridge, the village "would incur that cost regardless."  

That brings the working estimate of construction costs to $1.25 million, a half of which is $625,000.  According to Brandmeier, the village should have a more refined estimate of the total cost as functional designs are presented, and variable costs like fuel and materials are solidified in a proposal.

"At this juncture we haven't had a design," said Brandmeier. "We've had conceptual design."

Reimbursement

Fonstad was insistent that Footbridge Friends be required by the resolution to repay any money given by the village, effectively raising the fundraising goal by a potential total of $45,450 to $670,450.

"I could only support something like this if it's clear there's a requirement to reimburse (the village)," Fonstad said.

Though that requirement made it into the final version of the resolution, Footbridge Friends has no assets, and the possibility remains that there may be no money to repay the village if the fundraising fails.

"At the end of the day, the village may not be able to enforce (the requirement)," Fonstad said, "but it's an important feature."

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