Back on track: Phase II Downtown Riverfront project bid awarded
To the sound of thunderous applause from numerous children and families that attended the Sept. 19 Fergus Falls City Council session, Phase II of the Downtown Riverfront project bid was awarded to Comstock Construction, making a splash pad in downtown Fergus Falls a reality, as well as a huge fundraising announcement from Mayor Ben Schierer.
A resolution was approved by council awarding the bid for the project officially titled “PI 9767,” to Comstock Construction in the amount of $3,591,292.24. The total cost for the project $5,292,189.92 which includes construction, contingency, design and engineering, plus soft costs.
Phase II of the Downtown Riverfront project had been controversial because of the original cost of the project which would have also included a pedestrian bridge, that council felt was too high and requested that city engineering staff present a revised version of the project.
In reducing the scope of the project, the footprint of the splash pad was slightly reduced, with some trails also eliminated from the original proposal and the project was put back out for re-bids with seven alternate proposals as well as securing additional funding sources. Flexibility was also added in for a completion date to have a splash pad operational by 2024.
After these adjustments, the project will now include a splash pad with a variety of spray and play features with otter shaped sprayers and a pergola shade structure including restrooms and sidewalks. The parking lot itself, which is situated directly behind the old Fergus Falls Post Office, now the Edward J. Devitt U.S. Courthouse & Federal Building will be completely replaced. Art foundations will also be put in for future art installations as well.
Bill Sonmor, city finance director, said funding sources would be all covered including a huge boost from local private fundraising.
“Our ARPA funds, the balance of that is $713,000, we are looking at putting that toward this project. This would be looking at using the balance of that. Then we’re ending the sales tax that we were paying for the library now at the end of September and I’m projecting we should have a balance that we transfer to the general fund of about $500,000 that could go towards this project. The parking lot budget we’ve been accumulating about $35,000 a year in that. I think we’re up to about $130,000 in that fund right now and we are looking at pulling $100,00 of that towards this. Obviously, for the parking lot portion of the project,” said Sonmor.
The impact on city taxpayers is estimated to be minimal and spread out with a 15 year bond, netting 1.83% levy increase. Sonmor pointed out that a $250,000 residential home would pay approximately $27, while a $1 million commercial business would pay $225.
The additional funding came from fundraising and Schierer made the announcement of the sizable donation to the packed chamber audience.
“So we realized with a two million dollar fundraising campaign, we were going to need the Veden Trust to be on board,” said Schierer.
Schierer then detailed how himself and Andrew Bremseth, city administrator, drove down to the Twin Cities to seek the organization’s support.
“We got in the car and drove down to the Twin Cities, Andrew and I and we met with the Veden Trust and we told them, this is the project the community supports, this is the project for us right now, we need to raise $2 million dollars in our community and we need your help to do it. We did that earlier in September, giving them time knowing that the council was going to take this up Sept. 19. I’ll say that within a half hour of us leaving the Twin Cities they were on the phone and said they were in and they were supporting us and in the of $1 million to get us started on that fundraising campaign,” said Schierer.
Schierer stated as well that with this arrangement Veden Charitable Trust would donate $500,000 this fall and the other $500,000 before the project would break ground in the spring. He also stated that there were two other individuals in the community who are the leads in the fundraising effort, Peggy Underwood and Tasha Rolfs.
After fundraising is completed, the project would break ground in the spring of 2023, with everything operational by 2024.