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Fox Point takes step toward bidding Footbridge demolition

Reconstruction still an option

The Fox Point footbridge, as seen in 2010.

The Fox Point footbridge, as seen in 2010. Photo By Michael Sears

March 13, 2013

Fox Point - After more than three years of debate, consulting studies, and dozens of Village Board meetings, it's likely that a shovel will strike earth at the site of the Ravine Lane Footbridge this year.

Well, less of a shovel and more of a wrecking ball.

The Village Board on Tuesday, amid a crowd of footbridge supporters and opponents, passed 6-1 a motion which directs village staff and consulting firm Ayres to draw up documents to bid out the work of demolishing the bridge, leaving its concrete piers and abutments in place, and doing a limited restoration of the trails leading to the bridge. In effect the action eliminates the possibility of repairing the bridge, which trustee Beverly Bell argued against, taking the stance that the bridge could be repaired and casting the lone vote against the motion.

"I don't think (repairing the bridge) would be a wise use of public funds, given the extent of the damage and deterioration," Village President Michael West said in reply. "We have been approaching this incrementally, and I think this is the next step."

A construction cost estimate from Ayres puts the demolition at approximately $359,000. Public Works Director Scott Brandmeier said after the meeting that, assuming the board approves bids and funding later on, he would shoot for construction in the dry months of June and July and wrap up landscaping by September.

Rebuilding still an option

Since the demolition as specified by trustees leaves key structures of the bridge in place, the option remains that the board could someday decide to rebuild. Timing on that, said Brandmeier, would depend largely on when fundraising group Footbridge Friends can hit its $655,000 goal.

Though Footbridge Friends President Barbara Schwartz didn't say how much the group has raised since the Feb. meeting where they were reportedly at about a third of their goal - much to the chagrin of footbridge opponents Larry Booth and Bob Cory - she said the group will continue.

"We remain committed to our mission … as a citizen component of a public/private partnership to replace one beloved structure with another," Schwartz wrote in a letter distributed to Footbridge Friends members Tuesday evening after the meeting.

The downside of a two-phased approach, said West, is that two separate projects would duplicate certain costs, like transportation for workers and equipment. Having gone over Ayres' construction estimate with Brandmeier, West estimates that on the upper end the village may pay between $65,000-$75,000 more by separating a teardown and reconstruction into two projects.

Resident speak out

As has been the case at other meetings on the footbridge, Fox Point residents came out to weigh in on the footbridge and its cost.

Long time outspoken footbridge opponents Larry Booth and Bob Cory laid into the board over the cost of the project, for giving the Footbridge Friends more time after the Feb. meeting, and said other village expenses like road work and a repair of the village pool should come first.

While trying to question Schwartz and the board, Booth was repeatedly cut off by trustee Douglas H. Frazer, who said the agenda didn't include a question and answer session and that Booth's actions were out of order - a move which drew Cory's ire.

"I'm going to come to Village Boards and ask questions and I'm not out of order so long as my taxes are paid," Cory told trustees.

At the same time, a number of residents came to again show their support for the footbridge's eventual reconstruction. They described the footbridge as an asset and part of the community's character. Barnett Lane resident Steven Klein seemed fed up with opponents.

"If you don't want a non-essential amenity," he asked, turning to look into the crowd, "why don't you move to a community that doesn't have any?"

For the demolition to take place, the village board will need to take action to bid out the work before approving a bid and funding.

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