Farmington official blasts consultant over Oakland St. bid

Farmington city council member Bill Galvin on Monday suggested the city should start looking for a new engineering consultant, after a single bid on the Oakland Street project came in at more than $1 million, 30 percent over estimates

Matt Parks, representing OHM Advisors, told officials during a study session that many municipal and state project bids have been coming in much higher than estimates. Some entities have postponed or rebid projects, others have moved forward even with the additional cost.

Oakland Street

“I’m pretty agitated at the engineering process,” Galvin said. “We paid $100,000 for the design, $90,000 for the civil engineering, and it sounds like you did your research on the market after the bid came in high… I think we should open up an RFP (request for proposals) for civil engineering services.”

Parks said this is the first time on his watch that bids have come in so far over. Mayor Steven Schneemann, an architect, said because of the robust economy, the city faces “a tough bidding climate… a climate like I’ve never seen before.”

“The fact that we got one bid has nothing to do with engineering,” Schneemann said, adding that the largest cost areas are road and sewer work, which the city would have to do no matter what.

Street repair expanded

Oakland Street was first identified for repairs because its pavement assessment rating, on a scale from 1 to 10, is a 2. The original cost of repaving the road and utility improvements was around $266,000, with the city and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) splitting costs.

In late 2018, the DDA advocated for additional parking and streetscaping that includes the Grand River/Liberty Street intersection, a gateway to the downtown. That bumped the estimated budget to around $660,000, and city officials balked, putting the project on hold during their January 22 meeting.

During a January 29 special meeting, council members authorized preparation and issuing of bid documents.

DDA meeting minutes from December of 2018 show that Parks told the Board of Directors “going into 2019, all projects and especially smaller projects (under $1,000,000) like this one, are bid roughly 5-10% more,” an increase included in the budget estimate.

Project options

On Monday, Parks laid out options that included re-bidding with a more flexible timeline, and “value engineering” to reduce costs based on what officials are willing to sacrifice. No matter what, Schneemann said, city and DDA officials will have to renegotiate their deal.

“I’m not confident re-bidding will get us a better result,” he said, “and it might be higher. This road isn’t going to get any better while we wait.”

Galvin asked about OHM’s value, pointing out that the company’s fee, listed as 12 percent of the project costs, would also be higher. Parks explained that the percentage is just an estimate to help the city determine its costs. “We have always billed hourly,” he said.

Officials took no action on the project Monday. But Galvin during the council’s regular meeting said they “need to reinvent how we design these road projects. We could have been more proactive over the last nine months.”