City of Lansing will participate in two-year workers’ compensation safety training program; Council hears U of I structural analysis update on Old Stone School

by Julie Berg-Raymond

During its regular meeting Monday, December 5, the Lansing City Council voted to meet the requirements outlined by the Iowa Workers’ Municipalities Compensation Association (IWMCA) for safety training - which means agreeing to participate in a two-year program to “develop a safety culture,” according to Dean Schade, safety and risk approvement manager with IWMCA.

Lansing has been identified as meeting the criteria for IWMCA’s High-Level Risk Management Action Plan (RMAP), created “to assist members currently experiencing a high number of severe claims,” Schade wrote in an email sent to Lansing Mayor Melissa Hammell in October. “By adopting this program, we hope to help identified members correct any deficiencies in their safety program and assist them to develop a sustainable safety culture. The goal is to help our members protect their employees and reduce claims, while leading to a reduction in premium paid by your city,” the email continued.

Council member Steve Murray, who serves with approximately seven citizens on a committee to make decisions about the lights for the new bridge and to fundraise for the project, updated the council on the committee’s progress. To date, the committee has received two grants for the project: one for $2,900 from the Arlin Falck Foundation to help start the fundraising campaign, and one for $18,500 from the Lansing RAGBRAI 2022 committee.

An additional $20,000 has been offered by an anonymous donor. Main Street Lansing (MSL), a non-profit organization, is the fiscal agent for the fundraising project; donations will go through MSL and be placed in the Black Hawk Bridge light account.

The total estimated cost for the new bridge lights is $400,000. A public fundraising campaign, “Light the Way,” will begin in the spring of 2023 (see details in the shaded box elsewhere on this same page). Web designer Elizabeth Loberg is creating a website for the campaign.

Four University of Iowa students who have spent the fall semester doing a structural analysis and a use/recommendation analysis of the Old Stone School presented their final report to the council, which included dollar estimates and preliminary architectural renderings. Ben Amelon, Chad Johnson, Devon Liebe and Yusef Igram spoke to the council via zoom.

Among the things they noted was that “the visible wood is in pretty good condition,” but that the “floor is bowing, due to the freeze-thaw cycle.” They found animal feces and dead animals in the structure and noted that they “also found some asbestos.” Among foundation issues, they said, was mortar deterioration, also due to the freeze-thaw cycle.

Referring to a “facade likely placed to protect the wall,” they said it was actually “causing further damage.” Citing “the biggest concern during the site visit” - but one which “can be fixed” - they described a significant gap on the north wall, due to an extensive crack. “The north wall is not connected to the east and west walls,” they said. Other cracks, they added, are apparent.

The students provided preliminary architectural renderings that showed the first floor containing Lansing City Council chambers, a community center area, city hall offices, and offices for the police department that would include an office for the chief of police, an interview room, an evidence room, office areas, and a bathroom. A drawing of the second floor showed four apartments - two two-bedroom units, one one-bedroom unit, and one studio apartment.

While childcare facilities were initially considered for the second floor, a plan to include such facilities in the project was dropped because of fire safety and accessibility concerns, and because there is no space for an outdoor play area. No elevator was included in the preliminary plan because an elevator is not required if the building’s second floor will be residential.

The students divided the project into four phases and broke down the costs by individual phase. The first phase, which would involve preparing the building for construction, removing animals living inside, cleaning and gutting, and removing asbestos, would total $63,000.

Phase two - “the most critical, from our perspective,” they said - would involve removal and replacement of the north foundation wall, reconnecting it to the east and south walls; and improving building insulation, etc. Cost of this phase is $373,000. The students noted that, if phase two were completed, the building would be made structurally stable and further investment in the project could be postponed at that point.

Phase three involves demolition of the interior structure, with construction of a new interior structure, etc. Cost would be $743,000. The final phase would cost $1,253,000 and would include “the bulk of the work needed to make (the building) work in its intended purpose,” the students said. Site improvements, they added, came in at $130,000. Total cost of the project was estimated at $2,862,000, including contingency costs of $300,000.

The students researched possible grant opportunities for the project and presented three that would not be affected by the fact that the plans do not include an elevator. These grants, they said, “would get them through phase two, and protect the building.” They noted, though, that other available grants for further work might require an elevator to be part of the design plan.

“There are a lot of options to make this project feasible,” the students told the council. “We’ve learned a heck of a lot during the project, and we’re very grateful for the opportunity,” Johnson said.

Council member Curtis Snitker thanked the students for the work and said it would be “an eye-opener to the community.” He said the north wall separating from the rest of the building “dictates what needs to be done, as far as rehabilitation of the existing building” is concerned.

“It looks great,” Mayor Hammell said about the students’ plan. “It gives us a lot to think about.”

Andrew Boddicker updated the council regarding an exploratory committee’s recommendations formed to investigate the Iowa Great Places designation through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, as it pertains to Lansing’s community development over the next 10 years. Specifically, the committee recommended that Lansing submit the application by March 10, 2023.

In his presentation to the council, Boddicker asked that the exploratory committee be allowed to continue the application process, and that Lansing agree to be the host designee as part of the grant application. “The eventual grant - up to $500,000 - is a reimbursement grant and no other organization has that kind of cash-flow available to them in our community,” Boddicker noted.

Iowa Great Places is a 10-year designation which gives the designated community access to one large funding opportunity within the 10-year period from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. In its history, grants generally run between $100,000-$400,000, Boddicker indicated in an introductory presentation to the council in October, emphasizing that an Iowa Great Place Designation gives the City extra points with other agencies, for other grants.

The council approved continuing the application process, with the understanding that the City would eventually be made designee.

The next regular meeting of the Lansing City Council is scheduled for Monday, December 19 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.