Letter: Councilmember clarifies where he got the bridge’s new pricetagThe “Star Gazette” printed an editorial in its Aug. 23 issue based on a question I asked at the Aug. 20 Hastings City Council meeting, directed at Steve Kordosky, the state’s project manager for the new Hastings bridge. I asked him for an update on the revised cost of the bridge as a result of the State of Minnesota government shutdown last year.
To the editor,
The “Star Gazette” printed an editorial in its Aug. 23 issue based on a question I asked at the Aug. 20 Hastings City Council meeting, directed at Steve Kordosky, the state’s project manager for the new Hastings bridge. I asked him for an update on the revised cost of the bridge as a result of the State of Minnesota government shutdown last year.
He answered that those final figures would be forthcoming in the next one to two weeks. I then reminded him that I had asked the same question of him at a previous meeting of the City Council some six months ago, and his answer then was the same as it was this time around.
I then told him I had read a newspaper article which referenced the total bridge cost at approximately $210 million dollars. Mr. Kordosky commented that the revised cost was not anywhere near the $210m, and, again, he would have the final figure shortly. That exchange became the subject of the Aug. 23 editorial, which called for full disclosure of the new cost of the bridge.
With all that in mind I researched my sources and found the story, a “Pioneer Press” page one article titled “Halfway There,” dated July 31, which gave a $215 million dollar figure (I was off by $5 million) for the bridge, a huge difference from the state’s accepted original bid of $120 million dollars. So, one of two things could be concluded about the report; either there was a gross error on the cost, or the $215m was the correct figure.
To find out, I emailed the “Pioneer Press” and got a reply from Mary Jo Webster who was the supervisor on the story, written by Andrew Krammer, an intern with the paper. She explained that the bridge amount came from the “…Excel file that MNDOT provided….” and that file, “…contains information about all of the ‘Chapter 152’ bridges….in other words, the bridges that are being replaced or repaired ….in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse…..The Excel contains multiple ‘worksheets.’” She said to “….. go to the one called ‘2010 Sheet.’ On line 131, you’ll find the Hastings bridge. In column 3, you’ll find the…. cost as of 2011.”
I followed the instructions, and there it was, listing the cost of the new Hastings bridge at $215m dollars.
I’m writing this letter because I have consistently been asked by constituents to find out the new cost of the bridge. And I should add that as a city council member, I would like to know as well, because the City of Hastings has had to endure over $11 million dollars in reduced state funding over the last four years, losing fifteen (15) fulltime equivalent employees, including two police officer positions, in the process. But I suppose $11 million is just small change to our legislators.
As one of your City Council members, I can tell you it has been a rough four years for me trying to help the city council and city staff make ends meet for Hastings, all while maintaining quality service for our citizens and keeping property taxes from escalating.
I’m looking forward to hearing what the new total actually is for our new bridge. But at the same time I’m angry that we’re all paying more for our bridge, perhaps in millions of dollars, because our State Legislators couldn’t come to terms on the state budget last year.
That caused the state to shut down, which caused work to stop on our bridge because no state employees were at their worksites to inspect and approve the progress on the job. The shutdown lasted long enough to push the project to the back of the line at the steel mill providing material for the bridge. All of that, plus other shutdown-related issues, added up to a one year delay of the completion of the bridge. Time and money were lost big-time, not just on the Hastings bridge, but all across the state.
For better or worse, I want to see the updated new cost of the bridge, as we all would. And when you all see that final figure, remember it when you step inside the voting booth in November.
Hastings City Council
Editor’s notes: Mr. Balsanek wanted us to point out that the views expressed here are not necessarily the views of any other Hastings City Council members.
We have reviewed the spreadsheet used as the source in the story Mr. Balsanek mentions. A MnDOT official we spoke with said she couldn’t explain how the $215 million figure was calculated, but she did not expect the final tally to approach that figure.
The adjusted cost from the shutdown is something we’ve worked hard to get from MnDOT. In a story published on Jan. 26, 2012, Mr. Kordosky said:
“Both MnDOT and the contractor are looking at ways to recover the schedule, and the cost of that recovery has not yet been determined. I would hope we’d have those things worked out before mid-summer.”
We expect the figure to come any day now.