Cost of Sinclair reclamation grows

City bought former meatpacking plant before historic flood

2010: The Sinclair Meatpacking site and smokestack, before they are demolished, sit on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. The city bought the troubled property in 2007 to clean up a brownfield, but then the plant was damaged by the flood of 2008 and by fire in 2009 and was demolished. The project to clean up the site in the years afterward now has topped $20 million. (The Gazette)
2010: The Sinclair Meatpacking site and smokestack, before they are demolished, sit on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. The city bought the troubled property in 2007 to clean up a brownfield, but then the plant was damaged by the flood of 2008 and by fire in 2009 and was demolished. The project to clean up the site in the years afterward now has topped $20 million. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The cost of cleaning up the site of the old Sinclair meatpacking plant, damaged by floodwaters and then fire, keeps growing.

Last week, the Cedar Rapids City Council quietly approved a change order for D.W. Zinser of Walford that increased the cost of an asbestos remediation project undertaken last year to $2.85 million, up 36 percent from the originally contracted $2.09 million.

This brings the total tab for cleaning up the site Cedar Rapids acquired a decade ago to more than $20 million.

“While the quantity of removed material didn’t change, the ratio of asbestos-containing material and non-asbestos material changed,” said Rob Davis, the Cedar Rapids flood control manager. “It is more expensive to remove asbestos material than non-asbestos material, and that lead to the higher costs.”

The site was cleared to make room for a levee and water detention basin, with some of the land potentially destined for private redevelopment.

The quantity of asbestos containing material was increased by 19,000 tons, costing approximately $1.2 million, while the quantity of non-asbestos containing material was reduced by 27,000 tons, or about $373,000, Davis said.

“It was unknown if the material would contain asbestos until crews began digging it up, so it is hard to set an estimate for the bid documents,” Davis added. “But the pricing rate used was from established bid rates already approved, so there was no un-negotiated change order pricing.”

Cedar Rapids purchased the 30-acre site at the bend in the Cedar River, just south of the New Bohemia District, in 2007 as part of a brownfield cleanup project. A grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation covered half the $4 million purchase price.

The former site of a slaughtering operation for cattle, sheep, hens and other animals later was devastated by the flood in 2008 and then fire in 2009. This prompted a demolition and clean up of the site.

The same contractor — Zinser — was hired for $7.75 million to do the demolition and disposal of the waste, but the final payment grew to $17.3 million, plus an additional $700,000 in miscellaneous expenses, city officials reported Tuesday. The latest project for which council approved the change order last week was to remove a buried foundation that was identified during the earlier demolition but never removed because it was not in the original contract scope.

City officials had reported the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover much of the first contract’s cost. But FEMA pulled back after concluding in a written ruling it could not determine the reasonableness of the reimbursement because the city made an “intentionally inaccurate representation” of the scope of the demolition, possibly influencing who bid on the project, and then did not seek new bids as the work grew.

In 2014, The Gazette reported FEMA said it would reimburse the city $1.3 million of the city’s overall request, which was the actual cost of the Sinclair demolition unrelated to the removal and disposal costs. However, this week city staff was unable to detail how much taxpayers wound up paying.

City Council member Dale Todd, whose District 3 includes the site, said the city faced pressure to do something with the troubled property and had little choice but to take it on.

“At the time, there were significant efforts underway in Dubuque and Coralville, specifically the Ice Harbor and the early visions for what is now Iowa River Landing,” Todd said of the developments born of reclaiming brownfields. “We were looking at what other communities were doing and it was competitive. It was the only area in the core of the city and there was no better brownfield site in the Midwest” to redevelop.

“At the end of the day, there was nobody else that was going to do it,” he said. “You either deal with the liability or it continues to linger out there as a blight in your community.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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