• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Progress, but more work needed

NL Council receives update on Ranshaw House restoration project
Work continues on the renovation and restoration of the historic Ranshaw House in North Liberty. The City Council approved Phase 2 of the project in September, and interior and exterior work commenced almost immediately.

NORTH LIBERTY– Phase Two of the historic Ranshaw House’s restoration and renovation is well underway, according to City Engineer Kevin Trom, who reported on the project’s progress at the North Liberty City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
“Construction is proceeding well,” Trom said. “The contractor started work right away, and they’ve been in there the whole time, so they’re really going to town on this project.”
Trom reported damp proofing the foundation had been completed, and crews were 95 percent done with prep work for painting, and 50 percent done with interior wall plaster repair, with a minor complication. “There will be some additional work,” he said. “When they did some of the plaster repair, they uncovered some water damage that needs to be repaired. It’s not too expensive, but that will have to be some extra work.”
The Council approved a $48,000 contract with Shive-Hattery in late May for design, bidding and construction services to finish renovation work on the house, and received three bids for the project in late August. Wolfe Contracting, Inc. had the lowest bid at $420,000, which was significantly higher than Shive-Hattery’s estimate of $343,672. The bids were tabled at that time in order for Shive-Hattery’s Alan Wieskamp, and city staff, to seek out any anomalies which would explain the vast cost difference. At the time, plaster repair was estimated at $3,000, but bid at $33,000, as an example.
On Sept. 8, the council approved Wolfe’s bid with $32,000 in reductions.
Trom also reported there will be an added expense for a change on the exterior due to replacing the existing wood lattice on the front porch with a maintenance free vinyl-based product.
Mayor Terry Donahue asked Trom if changing to vinyl would impact the house’s status on the National Register of Historical Places. Trom assured him it was a permitted change and pointed out they had found a lattice, which is a near-exact match, with the same pattern. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
Council member Annie Pollock asked if there is a contingency budget for the project.
A contingency budget is an amount of money set aside to cover unanticipated additional costs, such as the unexpected repair work, and replacing the lattice.
City Administrator Ryan Heiar told Pollock almost $160,000 had been set aside for the project from a previous year’s general fund surplus allocation, and the rest of the money will need to be borrowed (through bonds).
“As we typically do, we do that after the project so we know what we have to borrow to make sure it’s funded,” Heiar said adding, “There is no contingency, so we’ll have to borrow if in fact there’s an added cost to this.”
The house was built in 1908 by Iowa City builder-architect Alfred Wickham in a late Queen Anne Victorian style with Colonial Revival details and all of the most modern (for the time period) amenities such as interior plumbing for hot and cold water (pumped by a gasoline engine), a gasoline powered lighting plant for electricity, a furnace and a dumbwaiter. The house sat on a 10-acre farmstead on the outskirts of a very small North Liberty.
The city acquired the structure in 2004 with plans to demolish it to make way for more recreation center parking. However, public outcry for preservation was strong, and the city began initial steps to restore and renovate the historical homestead. Current plans are to utilize the house as a multi-use facility.