Despite a cost higher than expected, the Janesville City Council on Monday approved a bid to remove the Monterey Dam and restore the affected shoreline.
A consultant for the city estimated the project would cost about $1.13 million. The low bid came in at $1.54 million. After speaking with the contractor, the city found ways to save money, bringing the total project cost down to an estimated $1.48 million.
A year ago, the city expected to spend $750,000 on the project and have the remainder covered through grants. Now, the city expects to spend $580,500 and have $900,000 worth of grants cover the remainder, said city engineer Mike Payne.
Several residents spoke about the dam. Most said they want the dam to remain as is.
Monterey Dam Association member and Janesville City Council candidate Jeff Navarro said the project put out to bid wasn’t the same project the council approved a year ago and therefore must be rejected. For instance, the current project has fewer fishing spots than the original proposal, Navarro said.
“The proposed project is not one that’s been approved by the city council,” he said.
Councilman Jens Jorgensen asked Payne how many fishing spots were in the original proposal.
“If we’re told it’s going to be the same project, I feel it better be the same project both ways,” he said.
Payne said he didn’t know but that he’s confident the project put to bid represents the intent of the original plan.
Resident Al Lembrich agreed with Navarro.
“It’s time to start over and stop it now,” he said.
A few others, including members of an advisory committee that originally recommended the dam’s removal, spoke in favor of accepting the bid and completing the project to save money in the long run. Delaying the dam’s removal or repairing it would only cost more money, the residents said.
To bring the price down, city staff worked with the contractor, Drax of Madison, to identify ways to save money.
One way the contractor would save money is by repurposing the large stones crews use to construct a causeway into the Rock River to remove the dam. The contractor would reuse the stones to restabilize the shoreline, saving the cost of getting additional stones for that function, Payne said.
The contractor recommended the city hire a local firm to do plant management for invasive species. By using a local firm the city has worked with before on the greenbelt, the city would save additional money, Payne said.
“This will save money for the community while still delivering the project scope …” he said.
Resident Jim Chesmore pointed out there are several suits against Drax in Wisconsin courts. Councilman Paul Williams asked how the city checks a contractor and what safeguards the city has.
City staff looked at Drax’s portfolio and checked references for other clients Drax has done projects for. They all gave favorable feedback, Payne said.
If Drax somehow fell off the project midway, the city has insurance to make sure the project is completed, though the cost could increase, Payne said.
Councilman Rich Gruber made a motion to accept the bid, and Williams seconded. Councilman Jens Jorgensen made a motion to amend the motion to postpone the vote until May so details could be sorted out, but it died for a lack of a second.
Jorgensen was the only member to vote against Gruber’s motion, saying it would be irresponsible to approve the bid without all the details.
“I’d like to have all the facts before me, and tonight we just don’t have that,” he said.
The city plans to remove the dam in August.