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Bridge work will start soon

September 29, 2010 | 08:42 AM
In about three weeks, there will be no vehicle or pedestrian traffic crossing the Wrigley Drive bridge. And it won't be open again until the third week of May.

By mid-October, the bridge, which is located by the Geneva Lake Chamber of Commerce building, is expected to be torn out and replaced by a wider and higher-arched bridge.

The nearly $1 million bridge reconstruction is being funded mostly by the state Department of Transportation through federal stimulus monies approved in late 2009. According to the most recent information, the stimulus money will fund $933,000 and the city's portion will be about $50,000.

The reconstructed bridge will be wider, include a bike lane and the underneath section will still be arched, but slightly higher to allow personal watercrafts and other larger boats easier navigation underneath from the lagoon into the main lake.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said Tuesday the area will be closed like it has been for the circus wagons and Venetian Festival. Center Street will be the main road in the area to and from the lakefront. He said signs will be posted about a week before the construction starts.

But, with the work starting next month, two aldermen and two residents questioned during Monday night's regular council meeting several issues regarding the project.

Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier, who had the item placed on Monday's agenda, asked where the contract for the project was available. She also voiced concern that there was no public hearing for the design on the bridge.

Former mayor and aldermanic candidate Spyro Condos, who owns the Harborside Cafe at the corner of Wrigley Drive and Broad Street, also questioned the missing contract and suggested the work is "poorly planned."

"In a real short period of time, we will have a bridge that will be torn down and construction of a new bridge," he said. "Nobody has seen a contract, we don't know what it (the bridge) is going to look like."

He said city officials discussed more at length the restroom facilities on the West End of Library Park.

"Well, we are tearing down a historic bridge and no public hearing for the public to speak in favor of or against," Condos said. "I guarantee if we had a public hearing, many people would get up and speak and criticize."

Condos said, "Before we go one step further, I want to see a copy of the contract." He wanted to see what the bridge will look like and who is doing the work.

But Jordan later responded to those concerns, including why the city didn't have a contract available for viewing at City Hall.

"It is not our contract," Jordan said. "The governor of Wisconsin's name is on there. They did all the bidding. This is not ours, it is a state contract."

Jordan also explained that there was a public meeting in August 2009 about the project in which 20 to 25 people attended. He also said drawings for the reconstructed bridge have been available for viewing in the City Hall Council Chambers for more than six weeks.

In April 2009, Jordan first suggested trying to obtain stimulus funds for the Wrigley bridge project. In July 2009, the council discussed the bridge and the stimulus likelihood. Then, in early August 2009, city officials discussed some of the design aspects of the bridge during a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Later that month, there was a public informational meeting and at a separate meeting, the aldermen discussed in more detail the design aspects of the bridge with Crispell-Snyder's Sue Barker. In October 2009, the city received word from the state and federal government that it was approved for stimulus funds to pay for the reconstruction project.

Former aldermanic candidate Terry O'Neill agreed with Condos.

"When the City Council was considering a cosmetic repair, there was discussion about the options," he said. "Now that it is going to be torn down, there is silence. No picture of the bridge and no construction schedule about how long it will be closed."

Alderwoman Ellyn Kehoe said there has been "considerable discussion" about the bridge.

Jordan also said discussions about the bridge work occurred just before all the problems started with the council last year.

He said after the talks about the design and obtaining the funding occurred last August, the plan was to bring the issue to the council. But, then there was no council following the suspensions of four aldermen by former mayor Bill Chesen. Jordan said there was no council at the time and the information regarding the bridge had to be sent to the state to obtain the funding.

"We didn't have a council and we had a deadline," Jordan said.

Although Monday's agenda item included wording for a possible discussion about a temporary pedestrian walkway, that issue was not discussed. According to Jordan, a temporary walkway constructed during the bridge closure would cost about $125,000.

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