The Bloomington Utilities Service Board dealt with some complications of working with private contractors at its meeting on Monday.
The City Utilities Department frequently hires companies to perform engineering or construction work.
Capital Projects Manager Mike Hicks explained a recent issue with two of those companies. The contractors are working on projects to improve water mains and to expand the Monroe Water Treatment Plant.
“In the execution of the work, damage was caused to Monroe County Highway roads,” Hicks said, “It’s caused by two factors, one being hauling and the other excavation from work on a water main. Our position is that there are two contractors responsible for the repairs, F.A. Wilhelm and Howl contractors. “
Hicks said the contractors have refused to deal with the issue, despite the city’s attempts to contact them. So, he said the city needs to find a different contractor to repair the roads.
“Monroe County Highway Department wants this work done this season before the asphalt plants close so it’s come to the City of Bloomington Utilities taking action to find a paving contractor to make the repairs,” Hicks said.
The board approved spending $64,000 to pay Milestone Contractors to do the repairs. Hicks said the city would attempt to recoup that amount from the contractors that caused the damage. Later in the meeting, the board discussed how the Utilities Department chooses its contractors. The issue came up when Utilities Engineer Jane Fleig told the board that a large engineering contract would be awarded to the company Donohue and Associates.
Board member Jason Banach asked Flieg about the agreement and Fleig said they have asked for a proposal from an engineer at Donohue, but no bids.
The contract is for the design of a culvert project that extends from 2nd St. to Kirkwood Ave. in downtown Bloomington.
Banach asked why the Department didn’t solicit bids from other companies to do the work, and Department Director Pat Murphy responded.
“We have a long standing relationship with Donahue and we’ve worked with them extensively. They did the initial project, they did the Jordan River culvert and 2nd and Walnut,” Murphy said, “We feel it’s more of a continuation of the project because they know the history of the project and we wouldn’t be starting anew and we think they price they are proposing is fair and reasonable.”
The contract would be for about $400,000. Banach said he has problems awarding such large contracts without getting competitive bids.
“Cheaper isn’t better,” Murphy said.
Board member Pedro Roman said approving an agreement without seeking bids would not be unusual for the board, especially when for engineering contracts.
“We’re talking about engineering, the design, not the actual construction,” Roman said, “We never bid these things.”
Flieg said that, unlike construction contracts, the city is not legally required to solicit multiple bids for professional services such as engineering.
The board will consider whether to approve the contract with Donohue and Associates at its next meeting, which is scheduled for November 18.