Sidewalk in limbo
Bids come in higher than expected
By Bert Lehman
The city of Clintonville had hoped to move to the construction phase with the sidewalk issue on part of Ninth Street. Instead, it is almost back to square one.
The city received bids for the project from three companies. The bids were opened at a special street committee meeting prior to the monthly Clintonville City Council meeting Tuesday, March 14. The project was estimated to cost $65,000, but when the bids were presented to the Street Committee, the least expensive bid was $118,650, almost twice as much originally estimated. The low bid was provided by MUDTeCH LLC, out of Dousman.
Other bids were received by Norcon Corporation for $121,230 and Pember Companies Inc. for $230,646.
Prior to the committee discussing the bids, Sue Aschliman, one of the business property owners who signed an agreement with the city to pay part of the cost of the repairs, addressed the committee.
She told the committee that before she bought the building a little over three years ago, a Clintonvile city employee told her that anything that needed to be done with the sidewalk was the responsibility of the city. She added that if it hadn’t been for that conversation, she wouldn’t have bought the building because of the condition of the sidewalk. She said she didn’t know what to think about the least expensive bid coming in almost twice as much as originally estimated.
“I know you guys were gracious enough to help me out and pay for half of it but honestly I don’t know how much more I can do,” Aschliman said.
She said that local contractors had developed the original estimate of $65,000. That estimate did not include the cost of a footing. She also said local contractors weren’t contacted for bids. She also requested that the bids include itemized costs, as the three bids received were not itemized.
After Aschliman spoke, Clintonville City Administrator Chuck Kell told the committee that the bids are good for 60 days. He also said that Kray Brown, director of public works for the city of Clintonville, was already in contact with the engineers at MSA Professional Services, the company overseeing the project. He said MSA was in contact with the low bidder to see what can be changed or altered to lower the cost.
Kell recommended postponing action on the bids until next month.
“I don’t know why the local folks didn’t bid on this project,” Kell said.
Committee member Jim Supanich asked if problems would be created if the city solicited bids from local companies.
“Now that things are out in public I’d say that’d be problematic,” Kell said.
Kell recommended working with MUDTeCH LLC on change orders to bring the cost of the project down. If that didn’t work, he recommended the city reject the bids and figure out a different course of action.
The committee asked for more information and Brown reiterated that the original estimate did not include a footing.
“The structural engineers feel that there should be a footing put underneath that wall,” Brown said. “That was something that was never addressed originally.”
He said he had already asked MSA Professional Services if the project could be done without adding a footing. He said he was waiting to hear back from MSA.
Supanich asked Brown if he knew how much the footing would cost. Brown said he didn’t know.
Brown said he had already requested an itemized breakdown of the estimate.
The committee recommended to city council to postpone bid approval for the project until more information could be obtained.
At the council meeting later that night, the committee made the recommendation to the council to postpone bid approval for the project until the engineering firm can contact the companies bidding on the project to see if the bids can be lowered.
Alderman Brad Rokus said he wants a resolution to the problem, but in the past if the city wasn’t going to accept bids as presented, then they would be rejected and rebid.
Kell said the engineers informed the city change orders to the bids could be brought to the city for consideration.
Rokus questioned whether change orders can be done only after a bid is awarded.
Kell said that’s not what the city was told.
After Mayor Lois Bressette consulted with Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer, the council was told rejecting the bids as presented was an option.
Rokus made a motion to reject the bids as presented and rebid the project. The motion was seconded by Alderman Steve Kettenhoven. The council approved rejecting the bids and rebidding the project by a 6-4 vote. Alderwoman Julie Stumbris, Alderwoman Amy Steenbock, Council President Mike Hankins and Alderman Jim Supanich voted no.
The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette contacted Kell via email Wednesday, March 15.
When asked what the next steps would be for the city, Kell said the city was currently conferring with MSA, the engineering firm, regarding all the factors that might be contributing to the extraordinary high bids that were received. MSA in turn will discuss this with the contractors to see what can be changed in the design and proposed project to reduce the cost.
“We are also checking with MSA to find out if they reached out to local contractors that we previously talked with regarding bidding on this project,” Kell said in a reply email. “The project was advertised in the Tribune-Gazette but we are unaware of what contacts were or were not made to interest bidders in this project. On most city projects that we directly handle there are efforts made to make sure that the local contractors are aware of the project and they are encouraged to submit bids.”
Kell said the city had also contacted MSA, asking if a footing is required for the project.
Prior to receiving the bids for the project, the city had hoped to complete the sidewalk project by June 1. Kell said it might be possible to complete the project by June 1 if the issue is brought back before the council at its April meeting, but that will only happen if all parties are in agreement on how to proceed.
“If the decision ends up delayed until the May Common Council meeting, a completion by June 1st will be unlikely,” Kell said. “Our timetable is to resolve this as fast as possible but all the decisions are not in the city’s hands because we have landowners involved that have to agree to pay for half of the total cost based on the legal agreement between the owners and the city.”
When asked if the agreement between the property owners and the city was still valid after the city rejected the initial bids for the project, Kell replied: “I think the legal agreement is still valid because the cost represented in the agreement was clearly identified as only an estimate, however based on the cooperative efforts it took to accomplish that legal agreement and a pretty clear understanding by the city that the owners of the property cannot afford a project that costs over $100,000, I do not see us even considering any future direction unless we have an agreed upon project, an agreed upon cost that is significantly lower than the bids we just received, and landowners that continue to support us moving forward with the project. If we can’t accomplish this it is very unclear to me right now what the future direction and resolution of this problem might be.”