Cost of parking lot too high, council says

The Marshalltown City Council defeated a resolution to move forward with building a parking lot on the west side of Veterans Memorial Coliseum in a special meeting Monday night.

Members of the council took issue with the installation of a retaining wall to raise the parking lot 3 feet to ensure it is handicapped accessible. Leon Lamer, at-large council member, said $129,000 seemed like too much to pay for a parking lot. He blamed the retaining wall for the increase in the cost, calling it unnecessary.

Other members of the council seemed to agree with Lamer. The council defeated a resolution to move forward with the construction by a 4-2 vote, with council members Bob Schubert, first ward, and Al Hoop, fourth ward, voting “yes.” Council member Joel Greer, second ward, was absent.

“It seemed a lot to me like it was the Cadillac of parking lots,” said Bethany Wirin, at-large council member.

Tax increment finance (TIF) dollars fund the project, and Lori Stansberry, finance director, said the city had budgeted $80,000 in TIF money from the previous fiscal year, but the entire construction will be paid with TIF money.

Shari Coughenour, city clerk, said as long as construction cost is below $130,000, the project did not need to go through the formal bid process.

Bruce Campbell, assistant city engineer, said the city solicited bids from three companies, but only one bid came in for the construction of the 28-space, multi-use parking lot. That bid, from ConStruct Inc., did not include additional, but optional, auxiliary costs of painting parking lines and installing a ramp and guard rail. The retaining wall slopes gradually to the east and is 6 feet at its highest point.

The city will install new curbs and gutters near the lot to help with storm water overflow, Campbell said.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said the decision to build the retaining wall had to do with ensuring that all five entrances to the coliseum would be accessible from the lot. If the city builds the lot, then the federal government discovers it is not up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards, bringing it up to standard could end up costing the city more money.

“If we end up having handicapped issues because we didn’t do it right, and they come back and tell us we didn’t do it right, then we are going to have issues we created by not doing it correctly the first time,” Wetmore said.

However, Bob Wenner, at-large council member, questioned why, if the lot was previously up to ADA standards without a retaining wall, another similar lot would need one.

The city demolished the vacant buildings that used to stand where the lot is slated to go earlier this year.

Wetmore said the city engineer will redesign the lot. The redesign will likely end up costing somewhere between the $80,000 budgeted and the $129,000 cost brought to the council Monday. He said he anticipates a revised resolution coming before the council at its upcoming meeting Tuesday.