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Release: Sept. 6, 2002

UI recommends Regents accept $1.63 million bid for first phase of Old Capitol restoration

The University of Iowa is recommending the acceptance of a $1.63 million bid from Knutson Construction Services, Inc. of Iowa City for the first phase of the Old Capitol restoration project.

Knutson offered the second-lowest of four bids and was judged by university officials to have more experience relevant to the project than Tricon Construction Group of Dubuque, who had bid $1.47 million. "In our review, we found Tricon and their subcontractors to be a capable commercial contracting team; however, the specialized, historic restoration elements of this project require a uniquely qualified team of craftspeople," said Andrew Ives, interim associate vice president for UI Facilities Services Group (FSG). All four construction bids opened Aug. 21 were below the university's estimated Phase 1 cost of $2.7 million.

Doug True, UI vice president for finance and university services, said that the university will request that the Board of Regents, State of Iowa award the contract to Knutson.

Phase 1 involves restoring the dome, cupola and bell tower and replacing the roof. The majority of Phase 1 work is expected to be completed in spring 2003. Other work, for which no deadlines have been set, includes Phase 2, which will consist of reconstructing fire-damaged interior areas and upgrading building infrastructure including fire alarms and sprinklers, electrical and lighting systems, and the elevator. Phases 3 and 4 will focus on non-fire-related improvements to the building's exterior, such as the west portico and exterior masonry, and landscaping.

Gary Nagle, FSG project manager, said that the successful and timely bidding process means the restoration is on target and under budget. "We are pleased with the bids we received, and we will begin work as soon as possible," he said. "The evaluation process has taken a little longer than usual but it was important to the university that we make the right decision, given the unique character of this building and the restoration project. This project is very important to Iowans as well as people across the nation, and we want to make sure everything is in order. We will be contacting Knutson Construction immediately following award of the contract to initiate the construction process."

The restoration of the beloved landmark Old Capitol is a time-consuming process because it involves replicating a dome, cupola and bell tower that no longer exist and for which no detailed blueprints previously existed. Consequently, much of the work done over the past several months has involved drawing scores of pages of blueprints by two architectural firms selected to restore the Old Capitol Museum -- OPN Architects, Inc. of Cedar Rapids assisted by Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, Architecture & Engineering of Boston.

Ann Smothers, director of the Old Capitol Museum, said that in spite of the difficulty, the process of renovating Old Capitol remains a labor of love that will be completed on time.

Currently, restoration work related to the fire continues as a "sister" to the bell destroyed in the fire is being readied for the restored Old Capitol. The replacement bell, manufactured sometime between 1860 and 1890, was cast at the same West Troy, N.Y. foundry that produced the old bell in 1864. The 1,770-pound replacement is being fitted with an automatic ringing system, as well as cleaned, polished and inscribed by the Verdin Co. of Cincinnati, at a cost of about $20,000. Meanwhile, the 1,100-pound bronze bell ruined by the fire is currently on display from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 12:30 until 4:30 p.m. at the UI Museum of Natural History in Macbride Hall.

Also, about 50 pieces of damaged furniture are being repaired by Schanz Furniture & Refinishing of South Amana, Iowa.

The two other bidders on the Old Capitol restoration project were Unzeitig Construction of Cedar Rapids, $1,860,000; and McComas-Lacina Construction of Iowa City, $2,210,614.