Waterloo finds money to fix rubber dam

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WATERLOO, Iowa — The city has earmarked bond money to cover the unexpected cost of repairing the inflatable Cedar River dam.

Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to reallocate up to $550,000 in existing general obligation bonds originally sold for a project to raise the Virden Creek levee.

Chief Financial Officer Michelle Weidner said the plan is to use the existing money to fix the dam before the next boating season and sell new bonds in June to restore the Virden Creek project budget.

She also noted the $550,000 amount is likely more than necessary to fix the dam.

"I did that intentionally because we don't know what we're going to find," Weidner said. "I certainly hope it's well below that. What I didn't want to do was have to come back to you in another month or two to have yet another hearing and reallocate more money."

The city was unable last spring to inflate the downtown bladder dam, which raises the upstream Cedar River level by four feet to improve boating and water recreation. The dam is leaking air near the east river bank.

Council members voted in November to approve a $388,350 contract with J.F. Brennan Company Inc. of La Crosse, Wis., to repair the dam, which turned 10 years old in 2019. While that amount was much higher than expected, city officials are hoping the cost can be lowered once the full extent of the repair is known.

City Engineer Jamie Knutson said he already expects to bring a change order decreasing the original bid by $75,000.

"After we put divers in the water we may find out there's an even larger decrease, but we won't know that until we put them in the water," Knutson said.

Councilman Pat Morrissey initially voiced opposition to the financing plan, saying there had been instances in the past when bond money was reallocated from a project and never replaced.

"The money should be obtained from someplace else other than taking it from Virden Creek," said Morrissey, who also questioned whether the dam repair could wait until the city's annual bond sale in June.

But Mayor Quentin Hart said the city will have to replace the Virden Creek funding because the city is already under a $3.8 million contract for the project.

Knutson said waiting to issue new bonds for the dam project in June would result in another lost season of boating, which could upset river users.

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Infrastructure Iowa