CEDAR RAPIDS — One of the signature community destinations in Cedar Rapids — Ushers Ferry Historic Village — has been approved for major accessibility upgrades in response to a 2015 Department of Justice settlement agreement to correct violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Concrete sidewalks connecting the village, new access ramps to buildings and modifications to countertops and drinking fountains are among the work ordered under a $604,000 contract with Tricon General Construction of Cedar Rapids, which was approved by the Cedar Rapids City Council during a meeting on Tuesday.
“It will be a beautiful place when it’s done and everyone will be able to access it,” said Jeff Koffron, a facilities maintenance supervisor.
The village, 5925 Seminole Valley Trail NE, consists of 20 buildings over 10 acres and takes visitors back to life in small town Iowa around the turn of the 20th Century. The construction, which is expected to be completed by Nov. 30, is one of six projects worth $1.8 million tied to the federal settlement agreement that advanced on Tuesday.
A new $1.2 million lodge in Ushers Ferry, which opened in 2014, will see only minor work, including changing the height of counters and a drinking fountain, Koffron said.
The Department of Justice and the city reached a four year, $15 million settlement agreement after numerous facilities across the city were found to be out of compliance with current standards. The settlement agreement requires the city to make corrections.
Other settlement-related items advancing include a $248,000 contract with Tricon for upgrades at the City Services Center, planning for $164,000 in upgrades at the Water Pollution Control Administration Building and $448,000 in police station and shooting range upgrades, and public hearings for $177,000 in improvements at several city buildings, including City Hall, and $160,200 in improvements in the downtown skywalks and three parking ramps.
In other city business:
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— City Council bypassed staff recommendations and approved a $350,600 contract with Tricon to construct a new Northwest Neighborhood “gateway plaza” near O Avenue NW and Ellis Boulevard NW, including three add-on options. This despite costs soaring above the expected budget of $215,000.
Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager, recommended rejecting add-on options for vegetation edging, speed markings on O Avenue and an archway sign declaring the entrance to the “Northwest Neighborhood,” in an effort to save $58,600.
He suggested accepting the base bid of $292,000 and renegotiating the price without a neighborhood grid design feature that would show the neighborhood with streets and homes as it was before the 2008 flood.
The grid, which would be situated on the ground in concrete, would cost $50,000 alone because it would require a special molding, Davis said. The grid would be difficult to maintain and so subtle visitors may not notice it, he added.
He recommended recreating the neighborhood grid concept as a placard, which he said would better convey the sentiment.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett led the charge in approving the full scope saying even with the added cost it still is less than other city investments, such as a recent sidewalk addition near Bever Park on Bever Avenue SE.
“This neighborhood lost the most from a structural standpoint and I like showing the map where the homes were,” Corbett said. “That is important from a historical standpoint. It represents a pretty significant part of our history.”
Davis said he anticipates the placard approach to the grid will ultimately be incorporated for feasibility reasons.
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— Some $3.7 million in hotel motel tax allocations were approved with a focus on entertainment organizations, paying off debt of city-owned enterprises, including the DoubleTree Hotel, and economic development initiatives.
— Plans to construct a stormwater detention basin on the old Sinclair meatpacking plant site were approved. It is part of the Sinclair levee and pump station, which is a key component in the city’s flood protection system.
The $975,000 project, when finished, should free up 10 acres near the Cedar River for private redevelopment. Construction would begin upon completion of asbestos remediation in the area, and should be finished in May 2018.
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