Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Engineering design contract spurs debate on no-bid contracts

Baldwin City Hall

Baldwin City Hall

April 4, 2012

What appeared on the Baldwin City Council’s agenda to be a routine approval of an engineering agreement led Tuesday to a promised review of how the city will award such contracts.

The Kansas Department of Transportation approved in January the city’s Corridor Management grant application to improve the U.S. Highway 56/High Street intersection. The project slated for 2014 will reconstruct the intersection so that High Street meets the highway at 90 degrees rather than the existing acute angle. The work also would raise High Street so that it would be on the same level on the highway.

With the improvement’s selection for the Corridor Management program, KDOT is to pay up to $775,000 of construction costs. The city is on the hook for the project’s right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and engineering costs.

When considering the first of those engineering costs, a $77,000 contract with BG Consultants for the project’s preliminary design, council members Bonnie Plumberg and Shane Starkey asked why the city didn’t seek bids from other engineering firms.

“If we go out for bids for an $18,000 lawn mower, why aren’t we going out for bids on something this big?” Starkey asked. “The job BG (Consultants) did for the business park plan was substandard. We asked for more information, but it was not forthcoming.”

Starkey said BG Consultants had performed well for the city in the past, but he wondered if the firm’s engineers “got a little comfortable” about doing business in Baldwin City with no-bid contracts.

Mayor Ken Wagner and City Administrator Chris Lowe said the no-bid recommendation stemmed from a combination of BG Consultants expertise on the corridor management process, its early involvement in the Baldwin City project and the help the firm’s engineers provided in the short one-month turnaround between the time the city learned of the grant opportunity and the deadline for applications.

Wagner and Lowe shared Starkey’s disappointment in the firm’s work on the business plan, but they said that was not a product of engineer David Hamby, who was working with the city on the project.

The city might have received lower bids through a request for proposals process, but KDOT might not have approved the project without BG Consultants’ help with the application, Lowe said.

Wagner and Lowe said the city was “too far down the road” to seek request for proposals now.

“I understand the concept,” Lowe said. “It would be more wasteful of public funds to start over and do a bid process for an engineer.”

A reluctant Plumberg accepted the need to approve the contract so the project could move forward, but she said she was disappointed with the single-bid recommendation and the lack of explanation for the decision.

“I will vote (yes) tonight, but I don’t want to have this happen to me again,” she said.

After the contract won approval with only Starkey voting no, Wagner promised he would visit with Lowe about changing to the process for award engineering contracts.

Lowe said the county could share in the engineering costs and other city expenses in the project. He noted High Street north of the highway was a county road and it, too, would benefit from the improvements.

Comments

NanCrisp 2 years ago

Wade on in, greyghost. Don't be shy.

Obvs, this unnecessary project was created to drum up work for specific folks. So, hmmmmmmm ... there will be elections upcoming.

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Torch 2 years ago

The Political Patronage system has worked for thousands of years...no reason to question it now.

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BaldwinDad 2 years ago

I'm sorry other then compromising her integerity Mrs. Plumberg should have just voted no.

Also can anyone tell me why we have to change High St connection to Highway 56??

I'm not seeing the big issue with this intersection.

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1776attorney 2 years ago

I would like to ask how these projects get in the pipeline and very few people in the city know about them until it's time to spend the taxpayer's monies. With the exception of 2 very recent newspaper articles, no one I know in town even knew this project was planned, let alone being instituted.

I go back to my contention that the taxpayers of Baldwin City are seeing their monies being diverted to projects that benefit a small minority of people or neighborhood, i.e. the north 6th Street project.

The city center area (around the downtown) needs new sidewalks, curbing and street improvements. North 6th Street does not need new sidewalks, a hiking trail, or nature path benefiting one upper scale neighborhood only.

The curbing around Baker needs replaced. The "ditch" along High Street at the Baker Stadium needs to be replaced- it's also a dangerous embankment.

Enough is enough.

I will add, BG Consultants has worked with Baldwin City, if I remember correctly, for more than 20+ years and have always provided excellent advice and consulting. When you find a good "partner" and have worked with them for so long, you don't kick them aside.

After Ms. Plumberg's suggestion for spending $400,000 of taxpayer (not her own) money on a city hall renovation, I suggest she needs to rethink her (and our) priorities.

You would think someone with multiple bankruptcies would have learned to be wiser with spending money, especially other people's tax money.

The priorities at city hall need to be rethought. It's going to come to a point sooner rather than later whereby the taxpayers have had enough of the misguided spending.

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llitteer 2 years ago

I'm with BaldwinDad. Why are we fixing the High Street intersection? And for that matter, who asked that Sixth Street north be redone? It seems that the taxpayers should be let in on some of these multi-million dollar projects before the City commits them to pay for them. The City and School district have been on a spending spree for too long and have driven property taxes to the point that Baldwin is no longer a cost-effective place to live or retire.

As I see it, High street is not broken and works just fine so why waste money fixing something that's not broken. Besides, the current configuration makes it faster and easier for westbound traffic to turn off onto High than it would a right angle that would require more slowing of highway traffic. Do we have a lot of eastbound traffic turning west onto High at that location or would the new alignment improve access to the Industrial Park?

As for BG Engineering, the City has used them for many successful projects so they have a lot of information about our infrastructure already in their database and design programs. For another engineering company to regather that kind of data would probably cost the City even more than would be saved by a lower bid, if in fact someone offered one.

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straightforward 2 years ago

No one is saying we should kick BG aside. If people are so concerned about not wasting money (and I share their concern), then why would we not put this up for bid? Why not make sure BG is giving us fair bids? If they are, then we would keep using them.

If we've had such a great relationship with BG for 20+ years then why did we get such shoddy work from them on the business park study? A fresh perspective may open some eyes. We may wake up and realize we could be getting a lot more for our money. There's no harm in putting these projects up for bid.

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