The Iris Drive Bridge has been closed since December 2018 following erosion from a severe storm. Work to replace the bridge is expected to begin soon.

After nearly two years of waiting, the City of Laurel can move forward with its federal/state disaster relief funds for Iris Drive Bridge Replacement Project.

By resolution of the Laurel City Council on April 16, 2019, the City of Laurel was authorized to file for federal and/or state funding under the Disaster Relief Act of 1974. City officials said the Iris Drive Bridge, which failed due to erosion from a severe storm event on December 27, 2018, was identified as the project for which disaster relief funds would be used if awarded.

Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee said he is happy that the city has received federal approval to proceed with the project, which will be a major help in the city replacing the much-needed bridge.

“I know people are ready for the street to be re-opened,” he said. “The school buses and emergency vehicles are using alternate routes. We hope to be able to repair the bridge and get the street back open soon.”

Officials said the city was notified that FEMA cost-sharing funds in the estimated amount of $351,114 have been obligated to the Iris Drive Bridge Replacement Project. Based on city documents, the federal share is 75 percent, estimated at $263,335.50, and the non-federal

share is 25 percent to be split equally by the state (12.5 percent) and the city (12.5 percent).

The estimated cost for the city is $43,889.25 but may change depending on the final total cost of the project.

Magee said the city is striving to move forward as fast as it can to reopen the city street. The city advertised for bids earlier in September, however only one bid was received from Walters Construction.

The mayor said since the city only got one bid, federal guidelines required that the city reject the bid and re-advertise the project.

“Federal procurement rules governing FEMA funding reimbursement require a minimum of two bids be received to constitute a competitive bid,” the city’s resolution concerning the bidding process.

However, Mayor Magee said if the city only received one bid the second time, the guidelines would allow the municipality to proceed with the project.

However, during its recent meeting, the city granted authority to award construction of the Iris Drive Bridge Replacement Project and adopted a resolution designating agents for the FEMA disaster assistance funds relating to the Iris Drive Bridge Replacement Project.

According to city documents, the city received three bids in the re-advertisement. Alan Coleman Construction, LLC was the lowest bid at $369,140.40. The council agreed to award the bid to Coleman Construction and to proceed with the project. Ward One Councilman Jason Capers said he and the citizens of Ward One, where the bridge is located, are happy and excited about the work which is about to begin.

Also, the city had to designate another agent for the project.

According to city documents, the city adopted a resolution designating then-Public Works Director Red Collins as the applicant agent and Mayor Johnny Magee as the certifying office for the FEMA Disaster #4415-DR0Ms.

However, Collins resigned Sept. 18, 2020, and a new applicant agent had to be designated for the City of Laurel for all future documentation related to this funding source. Therefore, the council designated City Clerk/Finance Director Mary Ann Hess as the applicant agent on all documents relating to the FEMA/MEMA funding disaster for the project.

Mayor Magee said he’s pleased that the city can begin this long-awaited project. He said the work on the project is expected to begin before the end of the month.

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