City, economic development leaders hope contractors ready for faster flood control construction

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG)- Ten years ago last summer, historic flooding on the Cedar River swamped huge portions of the city. Now as flood protection work kicks into high gear are construction companies ready to handle the increased number of projects?

Contractors listen as city leaders explain the ins and outs of federal flood control projects. The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance hosted a "historic build" workshop to prepare contractors for an increase in projects.

The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and city leaders hopes the answer is “yes.”

And both organizations hosted a historic build workshop for contractors on Thursday to make sure those who will bid the projects are ready to do the projects.

In a couple of weeks, bids will go out to complete the Czech Village Levee. That work expected to cost about $5-million dollars. It’s the size of project the city has done in recent years—totaling $10 to $15-million dollars a year.

But soon, the total number of yearly permanent flood protection projects should range from $35 to $55-million dollars a year.

City leaders say to find something comparable, you’d have to go back 40 years to when Interstate 380 was completed through the middle of the city.

Charlie Rohde, president of King’s Materials, says contractors will definitely need more workers to handle the added city flood control projects.

“Possibly 10 to 20 to 25 percent additional skilled labor plus unskilled workers. It may cause some delays as pieces aren’t completed as rapidly as people would like it to be completed,” Rohde said.

The idea of the workshop was to explain to contractors how bidding on federal projects, funded by the Army Corps of Engineers, is different.

The work of building levees, flood walls, removable walls and other features will go on for about seven and a half miles on both sides of the Cedar River.

Ron Davis, the city’s flood control projects manager, expects regional and even national contracting firms to bid and do some of the work.

“I think there’s just as much opportunity for locals. But locals may now be working on federal projects so they need to understand those rules and prepare for them,” he said.

Rohde says if there’s not enough skilled labor in the area for the increase in flood control work, then workers will probably come from outside the area drawn by the construction jobs.

He said some may stay until the job is finished and move on. Others may decide there’s enough work in future years to make a permanent home in eastern Iowa.