By Christina Luick
The Watertown Redevelopment Authority had mixed progress on the downtown redevelopment project.
Executive Director Kristen Fish told the board she received three bids for the town square design request for proposal.
"It was really good competition," Fish said.
Fish requested a member of the board to join a review team that will conduct interviews with the firms on June 21.
The redevelopment would raze the buildings between Water Street and the Rock River on the south side of Main Street to make way for a parklike town square.
In other business, the board decided to rebid the demolition contract for the 100 block of West Main Street.
"During the pre-bid walkthrough, we had a lot of questions from contractors about things that need to get done ahead of time and that they want information in hand before they actually make a proposal," Fish said.
She said they need to test for asbestos and lead, and also see if the foundation of the north walls of all the buildings are supporting the street or sidewalk.
The board approved entering a contract with Advanced Health & Safety LLC for asbestos and lead testing and finding the most qualifying bid for structural engineering services.
"Once we get the results from the asbestos and lead testing and the structural engineering review, then we'll send out a request for bids for demolition with the information we learned from those two studies," Fish said.
The asbestos and lead testing contract also includes testing at the property of the former Marathon Gas Station on 905 E. Main St.
Fish updated the board that two residential tenants have relocated from 111 W. Main St. and 121 W. Main St.
The board also approved relocation benefits to Neil Stolsmark's Authentic Ancient Arts Karate & Kobudo Studios, Inc. for an additional $20,000.
Fish said the business is planning to purchase the building on 117 S. Third St.
"The state statute allows for a certain maximum amount that if a tenant is being relocated and they're continuing to rent they get a set amount, but if they choose to become an owner of a building, they go from being a tenant to a buyer," she said. "They can get an additional amount and the difference is $20,000."
This amount is separate from the amount the business received when the redevelopment authority acquired the building on 111 W. Main St. and for its relocation.
Members of the board approved an amendment to the memorandum of understanding with the city of Watertown.
The city will give the RDA $700,000 of Community Development Block Grant funds the city received years ago.
The federal government is stopping this program but the city is still able to use this money. The purpose of the funds was for neighborhood revitalization and maintaining the downtown business district, according to the first memorandum of understanding.
The resolution had come to the board at a previous meeting but was tabled until a conflict of interest could be resolved.
"They had a restriction in there that the funds not be invested or housed with any bank that one of our board members has affiliations with," Fish said. "We worked through that with the city and our board members are no longer with participating banks that we have relationships with."
Chairman Robert Marchant suggested that once the board has the funds to go to the Watertown Finance Committee to see if it is on board with suggestions on what they want to use the funds for unless it is a "no-brainer" that it will be used for neighborhood revitalization and maintaining the downtown business district.
"I really feel this is a shared collaboration between the city and the RDA," Marchant said. "I'd like to make sure that we're all on the same page."
Vice Chairman Nathan Salas said he understood Marchant, but he would hate to lose authority in the decision making.
"I like the spirit of what you're suggesting, Salas said. "I'm somewhat cautious as to the execution and what it means long term for us."
No decision was made on this discussion.