Expenditure of $650,000 on this project as approved by the Township Board, not even counting the expense associated with M.C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, is highly objectionable:
- Around $75,000 of the balance is above the quoted cost by contractors and the lighting company. Contractors should be required to perform according to quote, and such significant sums should never be thrown on top without sufficient basis. It is a recipe for waste of taxpayer money and government corruption.
- The lighting quote of $133,071 is lacking any competitive quote. Never should such a significant expenditure be approved without at least one competitive quote. It is a recipe for waste of taxpayer money and government corruption.
- The major expenditures in the two contractor quotes are to the same sub-contractors, so it is hard to tell if the Township really has true competitive pricing for these.
- Only around $50,000 of the $650,000 budget actually relates to deciduous trees, evergreen trees, and shrubs, which is the least questionable aspect of the whole project, and could be quite helpful in improving the looks along Chicago Drive, yet without significant maintenance problems.
- It is unclear what warranties come with the expensive aspects of this project (the lighting and irrigation system), and these are the very aspects where maintenance is the most problematic.
- The project was hastily approved, and even 3 of the 7 Board members cast a “no” vote, with Trustee Tuttle voicing his concern at the hastiness.
There is also reason for concern that the Township may be using an approach with the architectural firm that is inadequate to ensure competitive pricing from them. Around $100,000 was paid to MC Smith in 2015 alone.
I recommend that voters insist on a 2016 cap on this project of $100, 000 until the case can be made for more to be spent, and even then only after there has been due diligence competitive bidding and adequate time for real deliberation.
On February 8, 2016 the Georgetown Township Board approved the Chicago Drive Landscaping Project at the same meeting as the presentation was made for this project by M.C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group. See the official online minutes of the meeting at http://georgetown-mi.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Minutes/02082016-481 and a videotape of the meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFB-g_rO_8E .
The day following this meeting, I made the following request of the Township Superintendent Daniel Carlton:
“Regarding this item (Chicago Dr. Landscaping : Presentation by MC Smith for consideration of landscaping along Chicago Dr. from the east end of the Township to an area west of Cottonwood. ), is the documentation (showing precisely what was being bid on, who the bidders were, etc.) available online or could it be made available online for the public to see? Where might it be found at the Township website? Given the large expenditure of money, it would be helpful for the public to be fully aware of what has been purchased, and how it was arrived at.”
Superintendent Carlton has been very helpful in providing me with documents and answering my questions. He provided me with the following explanation of the documents he sent:
“I attached the documents from our 2014 meeting when it was first proposed. Only two bidders returned bids for the project. The lighting is being ordered separately than the landscaping.”
The 5 documents are:
- MC Smith Bid Rec
- Rivertown – Bid Tabulation
- Apex– Bid Tabulation
- Georgetown Township Lighting Quote
Here is my spreadsheet recap of what I read in the above documents:
|Subcontractors||Type of Work||APEX Bid||Rivertown Contractors||My Notes and Questions on Each Line|
|Landscape Design||Landscaping||$242,000||No amount written in||Why same as APEX? Why no amount written in?|
|Schepers Irrigation||Irrigation||$43,000||No amount written in||Why same as APEX? Why no amount written in?|
|McNett Masonry||…construction||No amount written in|
|DeWitt Electric||Electrical||No amount written in|
|Dykstra Concrete||Concrete||No amount written in|
|Sub-total of above||$428,000|
|Contractor add on||$120,545|
|Total each contractor||$548,545||$442,018|
|For the Lighting quote there was only one bid: MLS West||$133,071||$133,071||Why only one bidder for this major item?|
Questions then that arise:
- How has MC Smith itself been selected as the architectural firm to use?
- I only see one lighting quote for this project, based upon the documentation. Why have no other competing bids been obtained?
- For the landscaping work, I see one and the same landscaping sub-contractor in both the Rivertown and Apex bids. Why is that?
- For the irrigation equipment, I see one and the same irrigation sub-contractor in both the Rivertown and Apex bids. Why is that?
- What warranties, if any, come with these purchases? For what duration?
In addition, here are some general questions I would have posed the Board if there had been more time to do so before a decision had been made:
The contractor costs themselves totaled $575,089, but the Board authorized significantly more “to cover [unspecified- JPM] necessary [how necessary?- JPM] changes” on top of this. The contractor quote from Rivertown Contractors already included $20,000 in “Construction Contingencies” and $57,299.81 in “General Conditions: management, overhead and profit”, but the Board has seemingly authorized more for this and perhaps other things, up to $650,000. Is that something someone would do if it were his own money?
The presentation was made by MC Smith, and at the same meeting was acted upon. Trustee Chad Tuttle appropriately noted his concerns that the Board was acting too fast on such a major project. It gave very little time for the Board to digest it, or for the public to consider and provide feedback on it.
Here are some questions I would have:
- Does it make sense to authorize around $75,000 over and above the quoted contractor costs for this project for unspecified changes? What sort of “changes”?
- Given that a major portion of the cost of this project relates to lighting, would it make sense at least at this time to forego most or all of the lighting improvements? How much on-going maintenance and electrical costs will be associated with this lighting? How important is more lighting in this area? In selling this plan at the Board meeting, Trustee Villerius says it will make people say “wow”, but will they be going on to say: “wow, how dumb are these people to spend so much on these lights?”
- The Board heard in the same meeting how lighting put up on Baldwin had become an eye-sore and problematic, and decided to remove it:
Moved by Jim Wierenga , seconded by Carol Scholma , to approve removing the decorative lights at the eastern end of Baldwin at this time and to review potential replacement in the future, as recommended by the Services Committee.
- Dale Mohr, Carol Scholma, Ron Villerius, Jim Wierenga
John Schwalm, Chad Tuttle, Richard VanderKlok
What, if any, lessons were learned from the above? How do we know this Chicago Drive lighting will not meet with the same fate?
- How well will some of these landscaping improvements hold up during Michigan winters and with run-off from salted roads and other abuse that might occur to it in this area? With respect to the median, is there really any sound compelling reason to change from what is now there?
- Is underground sprinkling really wise and necessary in this area, since it too is an important component of the overall cost? How much on-going maintenance and other costs will be associated with it? How well will it hold up in this area? Would it be possible to have ground cover and plants in the area which would not require such an irrigation system?
- A number of localities report problems with median irrigation systems leaking water onto the streets. How can we be sure this will not happen here? Could that not create more hazard here in Michigan given some days that water may freeze on the road?
- Are there not ways to improve the looks in this area, but at a significantly lower cost? Most of the costs go into things people do not see or hardly see during the day: lighting and underground irrigation. Only a smaller percentage of the cost goes into the main things people will really see: the trees and the wall. Why not just stick with these things people really will see, and save a lot of money now and in the future for maintenance?
- Since even the Board was very divided on this project, with 3 opposed, did it make sense to act so quickly? Given all the other questions, and the lack of time for public consideration, does it make sense so quickly to act? Why the rush?
- While these “improvements” may look pretty on election day 2016, how long can we expect them to last?