It’s taken two years for Riverside Township officials to obtain an acceptable bid to recoat the Swinging Bridge, which is showing large areas of rust due to flaking paint applied in 2011. | FILE

It’s taken nearly two full years, but Riverside Township officials finally appear to be closing in on ensuring the Swinging Bridge — the 210-foot suspension bridge over the Des Plaines River connecting Riverside with Riverside Lawn – gets a proper paint job that will last for the next 25 to 30 years.

On Nov. 9 the township board voted 3-0 – trustees Tim Heilenbach and Lianne Blauw were absent – to accept the sole qualified bid of $433,833 from Capital Industrial Coatings LLC of Hammond, Indiana, submitted in late September.

Trustees still need to award a contract for the work, but that document ought to be finalized within the week, said Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt. Township trustees may award the contract next month, she said.

The actual work, however, won’t begin until spring 2023 with township officials not wanting to have Capital Industrial Coatings having to suspend work during winter, leaving part of the bridge unfinished.

According to Wilt, the company said it is possible to use an alternate coating to begin work this year, but it was not clear whether that alternate coating would cost more money. In any case, township officials also need to get the project’s financing nailed down, which could take some weeks.

Capital Industrial Coatings has also assured the township, according to Wilt, that waiting until spring will not affect its price to do the work.

In its 2022-23 budget, the township had only earmarked $85,000 for the project. With Cook County property tax bills months late in being delivered, the township is also a bit short of cash on hand.

Also at their Nov. 9 meeting, township trustees voted 3-0 to authorize issuing up to $200,000 in tax-anticipation warrants to ensure there’s money available in case of emergency expenditures and to continue funding the charitable work the township does during the last couple of months of the year.

Township Assessor Fran Sitkiewicz told trustees last week that Cook County is on pace to mail out property tax bills by the end of November, but that leaves property owners a full month to pay those bills, meaning it will take some time for that tax revenue to flow into the township’s coffers.

Even with their cash flow reestablished, township officials don’t have enough money in reserve to fund a one-time $433,833 capital expenditure.

In the coming weeks, township officials will work with their bond counsel, Vincent Cainkair, on the best method for financing the bridge coating project. Wilt said the most likely scenario is for the township to issue alternate revenue bonds, which can be paid off in five to six years.

The debt would not require a property tax hike, although they would be backed by general property taxes. Wilt said the township could choose to use some cash reserves or earmark a source like the state personal property replacement tax to fund the debt service.

While Wilt said she continues to hope there may be grant funding available for the project, the township has not been successful in landing that funding.

Perhaps the best news regarding the upcoming project is that the bridge will end up with a proper cleaning and recoating, which wasn’t necessarily in the cards. As recently as this summer township officials were prepared to pay for a “perfunctory” paint job that would not have been expected to last very many years.

The township in early 2021 solicited bids for the project twice — and received no takers. 

Later that year, the township solicited bids directly from companies and received two proposals. The lower of the two, for $115,000, was for a paint job that didn’t remove all of the existing paint. The larger bid, which would have removed all of the paint, including old lead-based paint, came in at $725,000.

Capital Industrial Coatings, whose bid for is 40 percent lower, also includes abating all of the existing paint.

“It’s certainly a lot more than we expected to have to pay, but it’s much more reasonable than $725,000,” Wilt said. “I’m glad it’s finally going to get done. It’s such a showpiece for the township, and it’s been heartbreaking to see it falling into poorer and poorer condition.”