Saline City Council voted 6-0 to pay $356,057 to DN Higgins, Inc., for sidewalk, pavement and parks projects completed this year. But the payment came with some criticism and concern.
DD Higgins completed a number of projects in 2017, including:
- The downtown parking lot beside Benito’s.
- The drives in Oakwood Cemetery.
- Sidewalk and drain repair in Torwood.
- West Bennett Street road work.
The projects came in considerably over budget. The parking lot was $15,000 over budget. City Superintendent Gary Roubal chalked it up to the increased cost of asphalt. Council was more concerned by the $50,000 cost overrun for the drives inside Oakwood Cemetery. Midwestern Consulting, payed $47,725 by the city to administer, test and inspect the project, made a mathematical error that caused the city to underbudget for the work. When completed, the project cost $177,000.
Resident Mary Hess pointed out the $50,000 discrepancy during public comment. Councillors Dean Girbach, Christen Mitchell and Janet Dillon also questioned the error.
“What language is there in the Midwestern contract that states who is responsibility when they make an error. We’re paying Midwestern $47,000 to make sure they do the work correctly,” Girbach said. “Do we need to make adjustments to our consultant contracts? We pay a lot of money to consultants and then you look at the Rec Center, the DPW roof. At what point do you say, wait a minute, we paid you to do it?”
Mitchell had a similar question.
“I’m curious, when a mistake like this is made, do they take away liability? Is it in the contract? I’m worried about accepting further liability because of mistakes they made. We make an effort to be good stewards of the public’s finances,” Mitchell said.
City Manager Todd Campbell said that Midwestern estimated the price on 3,000 square feet of drive instead of 6,000 square feet. But, he said, at the end of the day, despite the error, the city was simply paying for work that needed to be done. Campbell said that at times the city will go back to consultant or contractor to recoup funds.
“It’s on a case-by-by case basis, depending on the circumstances and the magnitude of the problem,” Campbell said.
Mitchell asked how future errors might be caught ahead of time. Roubal said it would have been very difficult for city staff to examine the documents and spot this error.
Council eventually voted 6-0 (Jack Ceo was absent) to approve the payment.
“They (Higgins) performed what was asked of them. We’re paying for services rendered at a high quality,” Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar said.
Despite the overruns, Roubal said using Higgins for all the projects provides economies of scale savings. He said he was also pleased with the quality of the work.
Planned projects for the spring include paving of Harper Street and Colony Court and converting the People’s Park tennis court into a parking lot. The city has $374,000 budgeted for the work.