Cost of dam repair project estimated at $1.9 million, higher than city expected; leaders will soon decide how to proceed

photo by: AP File Photo

Water from a rain-swollen Kansas River flow over the Bowersock Dam in Lawrence, Kan. Thursday, May 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

After a proposed contract to complete additional repairs on the Bowersock Dam came in higher than anticipated, city leaders will have to decide whether to go ahead with the project as planned or try to reduce some of the estimated $1.9 million price tag.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive an update on contract negotiations with J.F. Brennan Company Inc. and Barr Engineering Co. for the rehabilitation of the Bowersock Dam and direct staff regarding how to proceed. The city only anticipated spending about $1.5 million on the repairs, and if it goes forward with the now $1.9 million project, it would have to defer other utility projects that were planned for this year, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

The pending repair project is in addition to a project to repair holes in the dam that was completed in the fall by TSP Environmental. As the Journal-World reported in September, that project also ended up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more than anticipated, ultimately costing the city about $1.66 million.

The project that will be discussed Tuesday involves additional long-term rehabilitation work to extend the life of the dam, according to a city staff memo to the commission. The work includes constructing a new concrete wall on the downstream face of the southern third of the dam and placing a new concrete cap on top of the existing apron.

In December, the City Commission authorized the use of the design-build method for the design and construction of the repairs, an alternative to the traditional method of calling for sealed bids. The commission approved the use of alternative construction methods such as design-build in 2018. Under the design-build method, instead of opening the project for bids, the city selects a designer and contractor team at the beginning of the process based on qualifications and best value, and a price is set.

At this point, the memo states that the city has three options regarding the project. City staff is recommending that the city not proceed with the design-build method. Instead, staff recommends that the city continue working with Barr Engineering Co. on the design process, but advertise for bids this summer for the construction work. The other two options are to proceed with the $1.9 million project using the design-build method or to reduce the scope of the project to a cost of $1.7 million.

The City of Lawrence is responsible for the maintenance of the Bowersock Dam under an agreement with Bowersock Mills & Power Company, according to the memo. The memo states the mill pond that is created by the dam aids in the collection of raw water to produce treated, clean water for the residents of Lawrence.

The City Commission will convene virtually at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday with limited staff in place at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The city has asked that residents participate in the meeting virtually if they are able to do so. A link to register for the Zoom meeting and directions to submit written public comment are included in the agenda that is available on the city’s website,


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