Guest Column: Conservatory’s ‘green roof’: One last ‘bid’ for Christiansen Roofing

By Mona Marcinkowski, Kathy Johnson and Nichole Larison Sammon
Fox Ridge Subdivision residents

Along with many of you, for the past few months, we have been following the Nicholas Conservatory “green roof” project, as it is a great addition to the Nicholas Conservatory and will be a point of pride for our community for years to come.

In an earlier article this year (“Nicholas Conservatory’s green roof contract: Does it pay to play?” May 9-15 issue), we examined the proposals given to the Rockford Park District for the green roof construction. Since then, with subsequent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, we have learned additional information about the bid process and overall project.

As you might remember, McDermaid Roofing, the second-to-the-lowest bidder at $133,869, came with a 20-year warranty for $10,880, and included in their bid roughly $63,000 for plantings, modules and required flood testing. Christiansen Roofing, owned by Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R), came in as the lowest bidder at $104,652, with only a one-year warranty for $3,575 and with no apparent plant material, modules or flood-testing costs included.

Strange, isn’t it, that a bid from Christiansen Roofing for a green roof that clearly would require plant purchases did not include estimated costs for such plants in the bid? What is a “green roof” without plants, anyway?

April 17, not even a month after the contract was awarded to Christiansen Roofing, Aqua-Aerobic Systems of Loves Park, Ill., a campaign contributor to Christiansen, announced a donation for the green roof.

Aqua-Aerobic Systems had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 16 on Rock River Water Reclamation District-donated land for their new $500,000 facility. The partnership between Aqua-Aerobic Systems and the taxpayers allows Aqua-Aerobic Systems access to our local sewage treatment plant for their research and development needs, saving them in equipment development costs over the next 10 years.

Aqua-Aerobic Systems’ donation of the green roof could explain the lack of plants in Christiansen Roofing’s bid proposal, but it doesn’t explain why McDermaid’s bid included plants.

If you take out the costs McDermaid estimated for the green roof material of around $63,000, McDermaid’s real bid was around $70,000 for labor — a full $30,000 cheaper than Christiansen Roofing’s bid for the same labor.

The difference between the bids submitted by McDermaid and Christiansen suggest McDermaid may have been the better option for the Park District project and the taxpayers for the following reasons:

1. McDermaid had experience with live roof construction;

2. McDermaid offered a 20-year warranty, as opposed to a one-year warranty offered by Christiansen;

3. McDermaid was $30,000 cheaper than Christiansen Roofing for labor; and

4. McDermaid is a long-standing business within the community.

Both the bid from McDermaid and the bid from Christiansen Roofing met the Park District’s bid standards for awarding a project such as this. The paperwork, however, shows the Park District compared the two bids as if they were equals when, in fact, one included the cost for the plants and one did not. The contract was awarded to the “lowest bidder,” Christiansen Roofing, when, in fact, it was not the “lowest bidder” when factoring in what was included in the respective proposals.

In following the project as it progressed throughout the summer, other interesting facts emerged. The contract was awarded March 22, but was delayed until May 10 before anything was ordered. Why was it delayed? It couldn’t have been our unusual mild and dry spring weather that kept them from starting.

Financial reasons on behalf of Christiansen Roofing appear to be the main issue raised for the delay. According to the records obtained through a FOIA request, Christiansen Roofing asked the Park District to issue a purchase order May 10 to Christiansen Roofing through a third-party guarantee company, even though the contract stated no payments would be made until after completion of the project. This request made the Park District go against stated policy and pay Christiansen Roofing before any work had been started.

The delay to start the project (as a result of Christiansen Roofing) caused a ripple effect throughout the project timeline. The contract stated the green roof would be installed between July 2 and July 13, but the Aqua-Aerobic Systems’ donation announcement stated completion date of Aug. 3. Furthermore, Aug. 5, a Nicholas Conservatory representative stated the green roof was still not completed, but on Aug. 6, a Park District representative stated it was finished.

In the Aug. 7 Rockford Register Star, Nicholas Conservatory announced it was closing down for two weeks for maintenance — almost a month early — for their normal yearly maintenance.

Another interesting point in digging through the documents is Christiansen stated to the Register Star Sept. 4 that he had not been involved in the day-to-day operations of his business since he had first been elected county board chairman. In e-mails obtained through the FOIA from the Rockford Park District, Christiansen appears to have, in fact, been involved in the day-to-day operations of his company. As shown in a May 2 e-mail obtained through a FOIA request, Christiansen not only delivered documents to the Park District, but the Park District delivered documents to him directly with regard to the green roof project.

Apparently on their way out of business, Aug. 15, a mere 18 days before Christiansen announced he was closing the doors on the Christiansen Roofing business, the controller for Christiansen Roofing sent an e-mail to the Park District trying to obtain the last of the project payout: waivers for the second pay request and retainer released. The controller was reminded by the Park District the bond was to be held for the accepted one-year maintenance of the installation, which they had valued at $3,575.

Sept. 3, Christiansen announced he would be shutting down his long-standing company, Christiansen Roofing, and stated he would somehow return the said above funds, which, in reality, he was not entitled to nor received.

A company whose office building was foreclosed on in 2005 and has faced multiple judgments over the years is now auctioning off everything from vehicles to tools (see sidebar below) and is now closed — after one last $100,000 project through our Park District, a project the company no longer has to maintain (the taxpayers do) and a project the company no longer has to warranty (the taxpayers do). With this move, Christiansen effectively collected his $104,652 and passed “GO.”

In looking at the documents, it could appear as if the bid process for the project was skewed from the beginning to help one particular county official — our elected Winnebago County Board chairman, Scott Christiansen.

Christiansen Roofing promised our community a green roof, but in looking at the records, the “GREEN” Christiansen Roofing saw in this project appears to have had nothing to do with a roof.

Commercial roofing auction

Assets of S.H. Christiansen, Inc., set for auction, Oct. 6

An auction to sell the assets of S.H. Christiansen, Inc. (commercial roofing), will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 6, at Action Autioneering, 2020 Harrison Ave., Rockford. A preview of items for sale, including vehicles and machines, will be 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5. For information, see

Machines and truck-related

Computer-controlled brake, electric shear, wheel barrows, small foot-operated shear, small brake, two large brakes, drill press, power hack saw, hydraulic press, electric drive on hoist, Lincoln wire welder, lift table, seamless gutter machine, compressors, shop compressor, golf cart, cutters and tear-off machines.

Trucks, trailers and cars

08 Ford F-250 XL 4×2 Super Cab

08 Ford F-250

09 Chevrolet Express 2500 Cargo Van

06 Chevrolet Silverado-K2500

90 GMC Model C7H042 Reg Cab

87 Kenworth T800 Tractor

94 Ford Econoline No. 350

89 Ford F Super Duty

03 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad St.

06 GMC Envoy XL

91 Transcraft Semi-Trailer

68 Garwood Dump Truck

64 Fruehauf Trailer

79 Fruehauf Trailer

91 Midwest Flatbed

98 Show Me Trailer

Fork trucks

Komatsu — 25, small Clark LP fuel, Clark-gas-operated, large Case fork truck.

Power tools

Drills, heat guns, circular saws, more than 50 hand tools such as brooms, shovels, etc.

Roofing equipment

Five-motorized dump carts, several Luggers, several mop carts, four-wheel carts, gravel carts, generators, Smith hoist, two sprayers, three ATVs Honda, gang box, screws and plates, buckets of glue and adhesives, saftey harnesses, nail guns, two table saws, leaf vac, truck vac, rolls of fel, flashing (some copper) 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of copper, 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of galvanized, shingles, downspouts new and used, 10 squares green timberline, huge amount of scaffolding.

Shop supplies

Motor oil, anti-freeze, bulk oil tanks, parts washer, spark plugs, lights, engine hoist, nut and bolt cabinets, large round revolving rack, 15 or more fiberglass ladders, aluminum laddders, wall lockers, big fans, banders, hammer drills, shop lights, Hilti stud driver, gas cans, cement saws, water coolers, fire extinguishers, jack stands, heavy-duty floor jacks, tune-up cabinets, and Grasshopper Z-Turn mower.

From the Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2012, issue

2 thoughts on “Guest Column: Conservatory’s ‘green roof’: One last ‘bid’ for Christiansen Roofing

  • Sep 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Whatever happened to “leadership by example”? Our esteemed chairman seems to be telling our elected board members to go ahead and follow his example with backroom deals that are consumated with a wink and a a handshake…business as usual in Winnebago County. The worst part is, now that the “deal” has backfired, taxpayers are responsible for the maintenance and warranty of the roof. Our Chairman has effectively imposed additional costs onto the public while pocketing over $104,000 for a roof he can’t deliver. Way to go, Scottie! Our county budget of $184 million is now in the hands of a person who cannot manage his own personal finances.

  • Oct 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I would like to see a graphic that shows the money flow. It would really tie up the whole article.

Comments are closed.

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