AZTEC — Aztec City Commissioners on Tuesday decided to move forward with funding for design plans for the North Main corridor project.
Part of a $1.2 million plan to connect downtown Aztec with the Aztec Ruins with walking trails and a connecting bridge, the corridor element would redesign the northernmost point of Main Avenue, adding a plaza, turn-around loop for traffic, trail path and infrastructure for future commercial development.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve funding for the project after price negotiations between city staff and Russell Planning and Engineering, based out of Durango, Colo., arrived at a savings of just under $21,000.
The new pricetag for the design work was lowered to about $178,813.
"Basically, they've come down about 10 percent, which is good," said Mayor Pro-tem Jim Crowley. "Spending almost $200,000, I want to ensure we are getting what we've asked for."
According to a staff summary report, the new proposal reflects a reduction in hours charged by the firm, sub-consultant fees and lowered mark-up costs.
Last week, commissioners held off approval of the initial cost for the project and requested further price negotiations before any discussion of the project.
But any confidence going forward with the design plans was shaken by news from Ed Kotyk, the city's projects manager. Kotyk told commissioners Tuesday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs further review of the bridge that will connect the corridor to the Aztec Ruins on the other side of the Animas River.
Danton Bean, engineer for HDR Engineering, the Albuquerque firm overseeing the bridge construction, alerted the city on Monday that there were "issues with the environmental assessment by the state transportation department's environmental team," Kotyk said.
Kotyk was told a formal review were necessary before the bridge project could move forward. All the required studies and proposals were submitted in May.
Commissioner Gene Current expressed concern on Tuesday that the state could potentially pull funding for the bridge.
The bridge and trails project will cost $1.2 million, with more than $300,000 needed from transportation funding to complete the pedestrian bridge.
A meeting Friday between Kotyk, Bean and the state Department of Transportation's environment department will tackle whether the city can secure conditional approval of the project.
Without approval Friday, the city risks missing an Aug. 15 deadline for the state funding. Any significant change in the plans would open up a 90-day review process, which could derail any plans for the bridge into next year. Construction is slated for fall.
"We will know Friday where we stand," Kotyk told the commissioners.
Mike Russell with Russell Planning and Engineering addressed the commission over continuing with the planned Aug. 20 meeting for public input on the design work.
"I think we can do the first public meeting. We're just wanting to hear from people what ideas they may have for the project," Russell said. "If you get the funding, we can proceed from that. We're flexible with how you want to work it."
Crowley asked that the commission be notified of the environmental concerns after the meeting Friday.
Mayor Sally Burbridge, who attended Tuesday's meeting remotely by speaker phone, lamented the surprise news.
"It doesn't make any sense to have a trail without a bridge," she said.