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Cost bump slows Marion Main St. revitalization

City will move ahead by paring back

News editor

What does Marion’s current downtown revitalization plan have that others throughout decades didn’t?

Money to make it happen.

However, state transportation officials confirmed this past week what city council members already knew: They don’t have enough to do everything they wanted.

Prepped to get started, the council was hit with sticker shock in early December when the lowest bid for the project was $1.2 milion, 24 percent higher than the $968,000 original estimate.

The state agreed with prospective contractors this past week, revising the estimated cost to $1.298 million. All the additional cost would be Marion’s to bear.

Accepting the low bid would have bumped the city’s share from about $258,000 to $531,000, said engineer Darin Neufeld of EBH and Associates.

“We were comfortable dealing with the $200,000-plus number,” Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said. “We’re probably not in a position to do the project at the $500,000-plus amount.”

The plan having been rejected twice by the state, council members weren’t about to let opportunity slip away, directing Neufeld to develop an alternative proposal that packages certain items as optional. Contractors would bid on the options separately from a base bid, Heitschmidt said, and the city would choose which ones it could afford.

Heitschmidt said he anticipated the revised proposal would be put out for bid in April.

The fitful quest to revitalize downtown is decades old, never short of plans but until now, always short of money.

A consultant provided direction in 1974, and in 1981, the state Department of Economic Development chose Marion for its first-ever in-depth study and revitalization proposal. Targeting land use, transportation, streetscape, furniture, plantings, public spaces, storefronts, and community art, the proposal was never implemented in its entirety.

Periodic attempts to create a viable revitalization plan continued for 30 years.

Marion PRIDE committee took up the cause in 2011, working with the city and EBH over the next few years to develop two grant proposals, both of which were passed over by state transportation officials.

A third attempt in 2016 was successful in securing a commitment of $716,000 toward the then $968,000 project.

New vintage-style light poles, buried power lines, new sidewalks, and modified curb cuts and crosswalks are major components of the proposal targeting Main St. from 1st to 5th Sts. Heitschmidt said he was confident most of the plan could be accomplished in spite of having to trim back.

Last modified Dec. 28, 2017

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