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Fox Point seeking bids for new footbridge

Village president says move is 'next natural step' in process

The footbridge was demolished in Aug. 2013 after years of debate among residents. Village officials will solicit bids for reconstruction in the spring.

The footbridge was demolished in Aug. 2013 after years of debate among residents. Village officials will solicit bids for reconstruction in the spring. Photo By Michael Meidenbauer

Jan. 15, 2014

Fox Point — Bids on the potential construction of the Bridge Lane ravine footbridge will be sought this spring as part of a plan outlined Tuesday by Fox Point officials.

The Village Board voted, 6-1, in favor of having Director of Public Works Scott Brandmeier reach out to the construction community in March and seek concrete cost estimates for the replacement of the footbridge.

Trustee Bill Warner was the sole dissenter.

The motion included a provision Brandmeier submit a report on all bids during the board's regular meeting in April.

Tuesday's decision is the latest in a long and winding path toward seeking a long-term solution to the controversial issue, which is seen by some residents as a historic jewel and others as a costly expense that is used by only a small portion of the community.

"There are things that need to happen," Village President Mike West said of the decision-making process. "It's getting to groundbreaking that is the most laborious effort."

Build not guaranteed

The board's motion Tuesday does not explicitly guarantee construction will take place, but it does mean the process is moving forward in that direction.

Waiting until spring was viewed by most of the board as a logical time to seek out bids for construction, which is expected to be in the $1 million ballpark, according to a recent report from civil engineering firm Ayres Associates.

"I think this is the next natural step," West said of the bidding process. "We want to be fair to the construction community."

The original footbridge, removed this past summer, was viewed as a safety hazard because of its deteriorating state. Early on in deliberations, which have spanned more than five years, the board stated it would likely seek private donations to fund at least a portion of the construction of a new footbridge.

In April 2012, the board made a motion to have the residents group Footbridge Friends raise $625,000 — a figure at the time viewed as half the cost of reconstructing the structure.

While the board initially gave Footbridge Friends a Jan. 31, 2013, fundraising deadline, the group was eventually given an additional year to seek pledges.

Barbara Schwartz, president of Footbridge Friends, declined to provide a specific amount of pledged donations at Tuesday's meeting. But she said the group is "significantly beyond" the raised amount of $470,000 that was reported in November.

"Footbridge Friends' officers strongly feel that until we know the project's cost, it would be unwise to be more specific," Schwartz said. "We do not want to inadvertently affect the bidding process, nor do we want to signal to the community that the campaign is over."

Although $625,000 has been cited in the past as a fundraising goal, Schwartz said the group believes it only should be funding half of the actual construction costs. The $625,000 figure, derived from an August 2012 board meeting, was based on estimates at the time.

Village has other needs

Prior to deliberations, the board heard from a small handful of residents on the issue. Opponents Larry Booth and Bob Cory again addressed the board as public comment was taken.

Booth criticized Footbridge Friends for distancing itself from the $625,000 figure. He pointed out the group has prominently displayed the figure in its news releases, fundraising ads, brochures and on its website.

"This board has given into every demand of this group," Booth said. "Five percent of the residents have contributed to this project. This community does not want you to waste their money on this footbridge."

Cory discussed capital projects through the lens of needs versus wants. Cory attempted to paint a portrait of the village's infrastructure needs, particularly along certain streets. He also pointed out many of the serene attributes near the footbridge can be found at Doctors Park and the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

"We've spent a lot of time and money on this thing," Cory said. "Let's put it to bed. Let's bite the bullet."

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