After a failed vote to table action on a design agreement for plans to demolish the 16th Street viaduct, Hastings City Council members did indeed approve the agreement.

Council members voted 5-2 during their regular meeting Monday to approve a professional services agreement with engineering firm Olsson for preparation of plans to demolish the viaduct. Councilmen Chuck Rosenberg and Scott Snell dissented.

Council members Ted Schroeder and Jeniffer Beahm were absent. Mayor Corey Stutte, who normally does not vote on action items, wound up voting to approve the contract because five votes were needed for approval.

Rosenberg and Snell also dissented when the council voted on Dec. 9, 2019, to move ahead with plans to demolish the viaduct, which has been closed since the end of May 2019 due to structural deterioration.

The general scope of services of the professional services contract for the preparation of demolition plans was discussed at the Jan. 6 work session.

It was concluded after discussion that the scope of services be modified to include leveling of grade of the structure’s northeast embankment as well as extension and design of 16th Street section to Kansas Avenue.

The final draft of the professional services agreement includes the amended scope of service and fees associated with the additions and increased the engineering amount from $100,000 to $146,500. Of that amount, $85,300 is for design phase services and $61,200 is for construction phase services.

The contract includes a section stating that if the city does not move into construction, the construction services portion of the contract would be voided.

“So, for example, if we get plans and preparations prepared, if we go to bid and we do not award a contract, the rest of the contract is null and void,” City Engineer Dave Wacker said. “We have no further obligation.”

The council approved the professional services agreement after Rosenberg made a motion to table the agreement and Snell seconded. The motion to table the item failed 2-4.

Rosenberg said he feared if just the cost for the engineering agreement went up as much as it did for the amended scope of service, then the actual demolition could quickly eat up the contingency funds set aside.

“I feel if we go ahead and award this tonight we’re jumping the gun and it’s getting the cart before the horse because we have no idea what that is going to cost and that could add as much as a million dollars to demolition of that viaduct,” he said. “You want to do it right. I would feel more comfortable knowing what that cost is, if it raised the cost of our engineering proposal one-third.”

Snell said he voted to table action on the contract out of a desire to shop around and potentially get a less expensive professional services agreement from another engineering firm.

“I think we limit ourselves quite a bit by getting one bid on things,” he said.

Stutte said the viaduct is an important safety issue and was declared as such during the council’s last meeting in November. The council wants to move forward with razing the structure because it is a safety issue.

He also reminded the council that Olsson built in adequate contingencies.

“They felt comfortable with the costs they had estimated on that,” he said.

During citizen communications, Hastings resident Willis Hunt asked the council not to spend money the professional services agreement until the city’s planned traffic study is complete.

That the city is planning a comprehensive traffic study was something Stutte mentioned during a Coffee and Conversations event Saturday morning that was reported on by the Hastings Tribune. Hunt referred to that newspaper article.

“Frankly, I believe the expenditure of any money is premature until we do exactly what’s said here in this article,” he said. “I believe the citizens of Hastings read that. I read it, and I liked what he said.”

He said he believed the best option available appears to be repairing the existing structure.

City Administrator Dave Ptak emphasized the contract is just for plans.

“It’s not to build it or do anything other than to adopt an agreement to get plans for the demolition,” he said.

The contract is a good representation of the council’s decision as well as the work session discussion during which the additional items were added.

“If anything, we’ve got the cart in front of the horse talking about spending money for construction when all we want to do is develop the plans,” he said. “Olsson is a firm that has been with us from the beginning on this matter. If we were to go out and ask another engineering firm without the basic knowledge and background that Olsson has, I would venture to say this contract would be much higher than what you see from Olsson today.”

The city budgeted $300,000 in the current fiscal year for design work of the future of the viaduct, whatever direction the council took.

In other business, the council:

Was advised there were no objections to Street Improvement District 2019-4 Laux Drive.

Unanimously approved an amendment to Enterprise Resource Planning agreement with Tyler Technologies.

Unanimously approved adjusting alarm monitoring fees through the City of Hastings Communications Center.

Unanimously approved a resolution requesting the Nebraska Department of Transportation to conduct traffic studies at Seventh Street, Ninth Street, 12th Street, 14th Street and 16th Street intersections of Burlington Avenue. Wacker estimated those traffic studies to be complete by mid to late summer.

Unanimously approved a resolution approving the manual application and contract form for the City of Hastings PACE Program.

Unanimously approved a resolution approving bylaws of the Hastings Public Library board and Hastings Public Library policies.

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