A long-awaited project to overhaul the painted surfaces of the Swinging Bridge will start March 27 after Riverside Township trustees voted 4-0 on March 14 to approve an ordinance announcing their intention to issue up to $500,000 in alternate revenue bonds to fund the work.

Earlier that day, Riverside Township Supervisor Vera Wilt signed a work contract with Capital Industrial Coatings LLC of Hammond, Indiana, which submitted the lone qualifying bid for the job last September.

While township trustees had accepted the $433,833 bid at that time, Capital Industrial Coatings had agreed to delay official signoff until spring 2023 as township officials mulled funding options and so work would not have to be interrupted during the winter. The company also agreed to hold their bid price until 2023.

The scope of work includes completely removing all of the lead paint remaining on the 210-foot-long suspension bridge, which was constructed in 1940 and rebuilt in 2002. It will then be repainted, and officials expect that the surface should hold up for the next three decades or so.

The bridge’s surfaces were last painted in 2011, a job that was also supposed to hold up for about that long. In less than a decade, the paint began failing, leaving large areas of rusted steel exposed to the elements.

The coating failures were the result of poor surface preparation for the last paint job, according to a 2020 report done by the township’s architectural consultant.

Once the work commences, it should take about eight weeks to complete. The pedestrian bridge, which connects Riverside and unincorporated Riverside Lawn just east of the Riverside Township Hall, will be closed to the public while it is being overhauled.

It’s taken more than two years for township officials to get to this point. The township sought bids twice for the job in early 2021 and failed to attract any bidders. They then directly approached companies and received two responses – one offering a paint job similar to the one completed in 2011 and the other coming in at $725,000.

A third round of bidding in the second half of 2022 resulted in just one qualified bid from Capital Industrial Coatings.

Because the township doesn’t have $433,833 on hand to fund the project out of pocket, trustees decided to issue alternate revenue bonds. According to Wilt, the term of the bonds will be five years and that the township’s general operating fund ought to be able to handle the debt service.

Wilt on March 15 also submitted an application to the county for an Invest in Cook grant in the amount of $200,000 to help pay for the work. Cook County is expected to announce grant awards in May.

Last year’s Invest in Cook grant request for $500,000, based on the previous higher bid, was not successful.

All alternate revenue bonds are backed by property taxes, which are abated annually if that alternate revenue source – in this case general operating funds – is sufficient to cover the debt.

If that alternate revenue source is not sufficient, a property tax will be levied to cover the debt service. Based on the amount being issued, township officials estimate that such a tax levy would amount to about $7 on a property tax bill of $5,000.

Before the bonds are issued, the township by law must allow for a 30-day period during which a petition may be filed to force the bond issue to referendum, a process known as a backdoor referendum.

Any such petition would require roughly 900 signatures of township voters in order to force such a referendum. The township posted notice of the bond issuance in the March 22 edition of the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. The last day for filing a petition is April 21. 

If no petition is filed with the township clerk, trustees are expected to approve the bond issuance on May 9, with the actual sale taking place later that month.