By Jason Arndt
The City of Burlington finally revisited the Echo Lake Dam modification project on Tuesday with officials presenting a proposed contract for design and construction management services to the Common Council.
The Common Council, which hasn’t seen any matters related to the Echo Lake Dam in more than a year, could consider endorsing a $652,953 contract with Ayres Associates, Inc. at a Feb. 6 meeting.
Peter Riggs, Director of Public Works, said the city decided on Ayres among five proposals received by the city based on the firm’s experience and familiarity with the Echo Lake Dam, understanding of the project, as well as cost proposal.
Ayres, which was heavily involved with the city’s feasibility study of the Echo Lake Dam as well as associated dredging project, cited its long-standing history with the structure in a letter addressed to city staff.
“We appreciate the trust you’ve vested in the Ayres team, spanning from our involvement in the post-dam inspection in 2017 to the recent completion of the Echo Park Master Plan,” a letter states. “Our dedication to understanding the Burlington community commenced with the projects inception, engaging in workshops to ensure comprehension before action. Echo Park and Echo Lake bear profound significance for the community, intertwined with its history, from historic boat racing to summer concerts and weddings.”
In addition to collaborating with the community, Ayres has also worked with Veterans Terrace, which overlooks Echo Lake.
Other proposals included GEI Consultants, Inc. ($996,000), Barr Engineering ($447,600), Snyder and Associates ($679,800), and Michael Baker International ($848,620).
The five firms, according to Riggs, presented their final proposals on Dec. 8, 2023, less than two weeks after 10 total companies visited Echo Veterans Memorial Park for a mandatory meeting.
Riggs said the city directly contacted more than 60 companies carrying relevant experience for carrying out the project and provided each of them with the request for proposal.
“All proposals were evaluated based on a scoring metric outlined in the (request for proposal),” Riggs wrote in a memorandum.
Additionally, each firm was interviewed by a panel, which included City Administrator Carina Walters, Riggs, and Racine County Director of Public Works and Development Roley Behm.
The interview panel concluded Ayres was the best fit for the project based on multiple factors.
“The interview panel agreed that Ayres possesses the best mix of relevant project experience, qualification, understanding of the project, and value,” Riggs wrote. “While cost did account for some points in the evaluation, it was not the sole determining factor. Consideration was placed on many elements of the proposals.”
Burlington officials, meanwhile, secured $1 million for the project through 2023 borrowing.
In December 2022, a month after voters supported keeping the Echo Lake Dam through an advisory referendum, the Common Council adopted a resolution directing staff to pursue a project that called for modifying the Echo Lake Dam and improvements at Echo Veterans Memorial Park.
In 2015, the DNR required the city to complete a Dam Failure Analysis for the Echo Lake Dam, which revealed the structure could not contain a 500-year flood without overtopping the embankment at Echo Veterans Memorial Park along Milwaukee Avenue.
The DNR deemed the structure non-compliant, therefore, ordered the city to achieve satisfaction through dam modification, or demolishing the structure in its entirety, which could have resulted in the eventual disappearance of Echo Lake.
Burlington, at the time, had until 2025 to achieve regulatory compliance through selection of either method.
The project includes repairing the dam, keeping and dredging Echo Lake and expanding the existing park amenities at an $8.1 million estimated cost to taxpayers, taking into account a $1 million Municipal Dam Grant awarded to the city.
City officials, meanwhile, have continued to seek other non-local funding to relieve some tax burden off of residents.