The Bridge Lane Ravine footbridge project is in jeopardy, after supporters only raised one-third of the money required.
The Fox Point Village Board must now decide what to do. Options include extending the fundraising deadline, giving supporters another chance to raise $600,000 toward the $1.2 million project, paying for the repairs with municipal funds or removing the bridge connecting Barnett and Bridge lanes.
In April, so they could lead a fundraising campaign to raise $625,000, half the anticipated project cost. The resolution said the board could reconsider the project if Footbridge Friends failed to meet its fundraising goal by Jan. 31.
At a Tuesday night board meeting attended by 50 residents, Footbridge Friends President Barbara Schwartz told trustees the fundraising group has raised $212,000. The group raised money from 150 different people, with the largest pledge coming in at $25,000.
Fox Point Village President Michael West said the board will decide at its next meeting to either remove, repair or replace the 100-year-old bridge, which has been closed since October 2010. He said he hopes to have more details about cost estimates acquired over the last three years, as well as how much has already been spent.
Bridge supporters ask for extension
The 50 residents at the meeting were mostly in support of the project, saying they use the bridge to bike, bird and enjoy nature.
“The footbridge is more than a bridge,” said John Emory, Sr., a 45-year Fox Point resident. “It’s integral to the village and important to the history of the village.”
Lake Drive resident Rosemary Cavaluzzi said the bridge is valued in Fox Point, as well as by residents in Glendale and Whitefish Bay.
"It’s a North Shore gem. Aren’t we lucky to have it in Fox Point?" Cavaluzzi said. "It’s your duty to preserve it."
Club Circle resident Barbara Fuldner said future generations of Fox Point children deserve to see a glimpse of nature from the bridge as the North Shore gets more urban.
"When I’m standing on the bridge, I stand there and think about what it was like 100 years ago when there were no houses there," she said.
"You're just kicking a dead horse"
Santa Monica Boulevard resident Anne Sachse said the board was hearing skewed pro-bridge input from residents on Barnett Lane and Bridge Lane at Tuesday night's meeting.
Outside of the residents east of Lake Drive, Sachse said the Village Board has not effectively communicated the details of the project to all Fox Point residents.
"If we have money to toss in a fireplace, fix the bridge," Sachse said. "Until you properly inform every single taxpayer in this village where their money is going, I don't think you are doing 100 percent of the residents a service."
Larry Booth, a longtime opponent of the footbridge project, said the group's failure to raise the full amount of funds by Jan. 31 is similar to a failed referendum because it shows the community does not support the project.
"What more evidence do you need? You have studied and debated this project for more than three years, and now you’ve got the results of your referendum," Booth said. "There’s nothing left to do. At this point you’re just kicking a dead horse. It’s time to live up to your referendum promise and your fiscal responsibility as Trustees and guardians of the taxpayer’s money."
During his presentation, Booth held up a shirt he created that said "I spent $3 million of taxpayer money on a footbridge," daring the trustees to wear the shirt at the Fourth of July parade.
How much will the bridge cost?
Bridge construction costs submitted over the last couple years range from $1.1 million to $1.7 million, said Scott Brandmeier, the director of public works.
But those costs do not paint a complete picture, said Booth, who puts the price of the project at $2.8 million.
Booth's cost estimates are based off of Boldt Company's highest construction cost estimate of $1.7 million. Booth also included $255,000 to tear down the old bridge, $140,000 in engineering fees, an estimated $175,000 in construction inspections and the $30,000 village loan to the fundraising group.
Brandmeier said those costs seem reasonable, but couldn't speak to the viability of the $500,000 Booth allocated for interest costs or the $25,000 that Booth allocated to legal and administrative costs.
Until the bids are let, Brandtmeier said it's difficult to give an accurate cost estimate because construction costs vary greatly, depending on the contractor that gets – or doesn't get – the job.
Brandmeier is working with a consulting firm to design the bridge and draft bid documents for contractors by the end of this month. The Village Board has not directed Brandmeier to bid out the document at this time, nor has the board taken a position on whether the bridge should be removed, rehabbed or replaced.