Things tend to slow down as the summer approaches. The Mega GetGo, the Community Gardens and problematic Road Work bids dominated city doings this week.
COMMUNITY GARDENS LAUCH
It was a mighty fine day for gardening on June 9th---the opening day for the new Highland Heights Community Garden.
Grande’s Garden Center brought healthy, good-looking vegetable and herb seedlings from their garden center on Wilson Mills Road for gardeners to purchase.
Noreen Paradise and members of the Highland Heights Garden Club gave assistance, advice and encouragement to would-be gardeners.
Although he didn’t rent a plot, Mayor Scott Coleman made an appearance and arranged for water to be brought onsite---which proved to be a tremendous help, as the original arrangement with the city requires gardeners to haul water, in buckets, from a key-required water spigot at the rear of the Community Center.
Council President Cathy Murphy and Councilman Leo Lombardo were busy talking with residents when not tending to their own plots (if truth be told Murphy’s husband, John, did most of the planting work in the Murphy plot).
Lombardo seemed absolutely delighted to be working in a garden again. He told me that he had a huge vegetable garden in his old house, but his current yard is too shady. If all goes well, Lombardo will have plenty of fresh tomatoes and peppers to enjoy this summer.
Deacon Joe and members of St. Paschal Baylon’s Helping Hands Ministry were busy tending to 2 plots, hoping to provide local soup kitchens with fresh produce this year.
All in all, it was an excellent start for this long-awaited project.
Service Director Thom Evans is responsible for maintaining the city’s physical facilities. It’s a huge job. Because of his job, Evans exercises a great amount of contracting power in the city.
State law requires that all projects over $25,000 be awarded using formalized, public bidding procedures. That requirement serves several important purposes: it cuts down on corruption and ensures that taxpayers get the best price for contracted work.
In the past, Evans has expressed a clear preference to use “informal” bidding, which allows him to hand-select contractors who do business with the city. Evans tries to use informal bidding whenever he can. One of his favorite techniques is to divide up large projects into smaller ones, to avoid public bidding requirements.
I wondered if that technique was at play again, when I listened to Evans discuss the bids for the city’s 2012 road projects last week. That project involves two very different types of work---1) repaving several streets using asphalt; and 2) making concrete repairs at miscellaneous locations throughout the city.
It turns out that the lowest overall bidder’s price for the concrete repair portion of the contract is twice the engineer’s estimate and almost twice what other bidders proposed to charge for that work.
Evans called the price discrepancy “egregious”.
Because the concrete repair work wasn’t bid out as an “alternate” part of the contract, the city doesn’t have the option of accepting or rejecting the bids for just that work. Evans informed Council that unless it wanted to fall way behind by rebidding the project, the city might be saddled paying for overly expensive concrete repairs..
Evans did offer one other creative---but in my mind, questionable---solution. He suggested:
“We could non-perform some of that (miscellaneous concrete repair) work. We could award the contract (to the lowest bidder) but give the engineer discretion to back the concrete repairs out. (By keeping it under $25,000) We could then go out and get informal proposals to do that work. We do not have to formally bid it out. We could do informal bids with local concrete people.”
So to make up for the city’s mistake in putting the bid together (i.e., for failing to make the concrete repairs an alternate part of the street repaving concrete), Evans proposes having the engineer unilaterally cancel parts of the contract (I have no idea if that is legally possible) and letting him, Evans, hand-select contractors to do the concrete repair work instead.
I keep wondering if the city---and taxpayers---would be better served if Evans focused less on trying to beat public bidding requirements and focused instead on improving the city’s public bidding practices to avoid this kind of situation in the future.
To read the rest of this blog, including updates about developer Lance Osborne and his proposed mega GetGo project, go to www.amyferan.com