Dow pays for Freeland park upgrades


No need for a coupon. Tittabawassee Township leaders have found their own way to cut the price of a major park improvement project along the Tittabawassee River.

Township officials announced Tuesday that they have chopped the price of a dioxin-related makeover of Freeland Festival Park in half. Instead of costing $1.6 million -- as received in bids early this year -- the project will ring in at $875,000.

What's more, Tittabawassee Township won't pay a penny. Dow Chemical Co. will foot the bill as part of state-mandated remediation plans along the Tittabawassee River.

The Midland-based chemical giant is accused of polluting the Tittabawassee River with dioxin, a contaminant linked to chlorine manufacturing and other industrial processes.

Board of Trustees member Rick Hayes said Dow has gone beyond the scope of its required duties in Freeland Festival Park.

"They came down here and said, 'If we are going to spend money on this park, we might as well do something that makes it first-class,' " he said.

That project will include a double-deck dock, a footpath and a meandering masonry wall along the riverbank. It also will include new topsoil to shield users from dioxin exposure.

Board of Trustees members awarded contracts for the project Tuesday. Instead of relying on a single general contractor, they divided the project into eight pieces and gave it to as many contractors.

It's a money-saver, said engineer Michael J. Rybicki of Wilcox Professional Services of Saginaw.

"Breaking it into smaller projects made it viable for a lot of contractors who typically wouldn't have the opportunity," he said.

More opportunity means more competition, Rybicki said, which was lacking from the first round of bids that attracted two general contractors.

But the discrepancy between the first and second bid cycles goes beyond competition. Officials say they changed the design to create a protective barrier of timber instead of large-diameter stone around the dock.

They also have found reprieve from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirement that would have ordered a dam erected around the construction site. The agency now requires a floating curtain to capture water-borne silt.

Then there's the term "dioxin," which also inflated the cost. Rybicki said contractors didn't know how to deal with the contaminant and upped the price accordingly.

But even as trustees reviewed the lower price -- cut by 45 percent -- some hesitated.

"I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth," said Supervisor Kenneth A. Kasper, "but I don't want to put a liability on the township."

Manager Brian Kischnick said Dow has agreed to pay for any damages to the dock caused by the first major flood after construction. If it doesn't stand, the company will rebuild it so it will, he said.

"I just hope the board would be gracious enough to accept the gift," Hayes said.

Trustees approved the contracts unanimously. v

Jeremiah Stettler is a staff writer at the Saginaw News. You may reach him at 776-9685.

© 2005 Saginaw News.

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