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Rockford City Council: City Council: Where the sidewalk ends
Posted By Staff On July 23, 2009 @ 4:06 pm In News | No Comments
Patient Rockford residents eager to get their sidewalk projects under way are going to have to wait for at least another week.
Since April, the Rockford City Council has taken bids three times from contractors for the 50/50 sidewalk program, whereby residents and the city share the cost of sidewalk repairs or replacement. When the latest award of bid came up for a vote during the July 20 meeting, aldermen opted to send the matter back to committee again in a 7-6 vote.
The recommendation to award Acura, Inc., of Bensenville, a $176,000 contract has prompted aldermen to delay the vote in recent weeks, because a Rockford company, AA Construction, had bid $27,228 lower.
AA, however, was not deemed the “lowest responsible bidder,” because of a hiccup in its plans to use TCI Concrete as a subcontractor.
The problem, a number of aldermen believe, is that the bidding process is too restrictive, causing the disqualification of contractors who don’t meet the rigid Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) guidelines the council follows. The result, they say, is that the city winds up paying more than it has to.
Ald. Venita Hervey (D-5), a council freshman, noted: “I’ve only been on council for a very short period of time, and twice now we have had situations in which we have to go to the second and, sometimes, the third bidder because of errors in splitting pay items. And some of the items that are broken out of those portions of the bid packages are so minute that I can’t believe the public is being asked to pay…more.”
Additionally, project awards of $50,000 or more require contractors to have accredited apprenticeship programs in place. Hervey worried that may put small businesses at a disadvantage.
“I want to see people well-trained, but if some of the requirements in our process essentially mean that a non-union or family-owned business cannot participate in our bid process, then I have a problem with that,” she said. “I think public projects and public dollars have to be open to all who meet the qualifications, and that those qualifications should not be so onerous that they prevent people from coming forward.”
City Administrator Jim Ryan explained, “[AA Construction’s] apprenticeship listed ABC [Associated Builders and Contractors] as the apprenticeship program for AA for heavy equipment operators and carpenters, and TCI [Concrete] for laborers and cement masons.
“AA claimed that they could handle the removal of the old curb and gutter, and TCI would put the new curb and gutter in,” Ryan noted. “The persistent issue is that you can’t remove old sidewalk, curb and gutter without laborers, which AA—under their proposal that they submitted—does not have. And you can’t lay new sidewalk and curb and gutter without carpenters, which AA is supplying, not TCI.”
Under the IDOT rules the city follows, splitting of pay items in this manner is not permitted.
“Now you might not think this is a big issue when you’re dealing with a contract, but it deals with accountability, it deals with quality assurance, it deals with the implementation of a contract,” Ryan stressed. “We’ve bid close to half-a-billion dollars in public improvements over the past 10-15 years, and I can count on one hand where we’ve had issues. Unfortunately, this area with the 50/50 sidewalk program has been a controversial one, but I would strongly object to [the assertion] that we have a failed process.”
Ald. Pat Curran (R-2) led the charge to delay, once again, a vote to award a bid for the sidewalk program.
“We can save some money here,” Curran asserted. “Why do we want to hand $30,000 [extra] to somebody that’s outside our city when we’ve got capable contractors in our city, and they get disqualified for technicalities?”
Ald. Linda McNeely (D-13) agreed the city’s bid process needs to be reviewed.
“There’s something wrong, and at what point are we going to get it right?” she argued. “For me, the issue is what we’re doing in-house. We should be consistent, whether it’s a union contractor or a non-union contractor.”
Curran moved to send the matter back to the Finance and Personnel Committee for further consideration, but Ald. Carl Wasco (D-4) argued Curran has had all the time in the world to have his questions answered.
Wasco, chairman of Finance and Personnel, said he’d discussed the issue numerous times with city staff.
“Every time I called [staff] and said, ‘Have you answered all the aldermen’s questions?’” Wasco reported, “the answer I got was, ‘Nobody called.’
“To stand up today and say you want to hold it off one more week, because you’re concerned for the citizens—where were your questions for the last week?” Wasco wondered. “Where were your questions for the two weeks prior to that, when we laid it over? We have sat silently by, talked amongst ourselves apparently, but nobody called the authorities that could answer the questions but me.
“I don’t want to spend any more money than I have [to], but if we start bending the rules because of somebody we like, or don’t like, and we don’t adhere to the IDOT standards we proposed, then we’re going down a slippery slope,” Wasco continued. “I’ve done my homework. I’ve asked everybody else to do their homework. Because they’re late for meetings, or don’t make phone calls, it’s not the people out there waiting to get their work done’s fault.”
The motion to send the report back to committee ultimately prevailed in a narrow 7-6 vote. Aldermen Doug Mark (R-3), Wasco, Lenny Jacobson (D-6), Nancy Johnson (D-8), Karen Elyea (D-11) and Bill Robertson (I-14) voted “no.”
committee reports recommending:
Ballard Companies be awarded its $17,955 bid for installation of a two-way traffic signal at Wyman and Chestnut streets.
Sail Contracting be awarded its $30,352.50 bid for fire hydrant painting.
Anderson Rock River Ford be awarded its $65,500 bid for the city’s purchase of two Ford Escape hybrid vehicles for the Human Services Department.
TCI Concrete be awarded its $200,729.04 bid for reconstruction of Bird, Curtis and Holland streets.
Approval of the sales of properties at 914 and 925 Maple St., the southeast corner of Maple and Lee streets, 719 Lee St. and 729 Kilburn Ave. Respectively, minimum bids have been set at $325, $800, $475, $325 and $900.
Approval of a $295,601 proposal from William Charles Real Estate Investments to purchase 1.6 acres of city-owned land at 1225 Charles St.
Ald. John Beck (R-12) was absent.
from the July 22-28, 2009, issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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