Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Family and Friends" -Another NO BID Contract Awarded

Hi All,
AGENDA # 5  Consider approval of 2016 Safety Path Program.   March 28,2016
  • The discussion of where new safety path construction should occur for 2016-2017 FY and the amount of the dedicated millage to be spent and whether or not to give a "no bid" contract to last year's contractor or to bid the projects was decided at the March 28, 2016 Board of Trustees meeting.
  • This is the perfect example of the "Family and Friends" culture at the Township.  The message the township employees, the supervisor, and many trustees is that "prices are increasing" ; "this contractor has worked for us before and has done good work";  and say "the work didn't get finished"  and "the contractor has offered to do those projects at the same price as bid last year AND do the new work using the old unit prices from last year".   "This will save us money by not going out for bids."  
  • This has been done and said so many times we all get sucked into that "culture" of Family and Friends"  as though it is right.   It is not.   Prices for supplies, labor costs and more do and have gone up.  I get it, let's save money! But should we skip competitive bidding?  Who knows the real cost at "last year prices"...for a new project with no plans or details to see? The proposed 2016-2017 safety path plans need a wetlands permit.  What special care is needed to do the work and how much would that cost?   How can the Trustees approve something like that with no specific bid number?   Answer:  the engineering firm HRC  gave them an "estimate"  nearing $1 million. I don't think I even heard how long these proposed safety paths are and how much cement, etc. will be needed.  Just a "from here to there" type description.
  • In a May 1, 2015 letter to the township from Hubble Roth & Clark (HRC), an engineering firm that has been the "go to" company for decades at the township on mostly a "no bid" basis themselves for decades, said this for last years recommendation: 
  • In 2015, Italia Construction was the low bidder out of 4 bids submitted.  There were projects labeled A-G in the 2015 bid.  The "projects B  and F "  were not done.  Township said, "they weren't ready to go".  IF so, why did HRC or the township put those routes out for bid then?
  •  HRC collects over million dollars a year in fees from the township according to a source...with basically a "no bid" contract.  Does the township pay HRC  less on jobs where they didn't need to prepare "bid documents"?  How is HRC paid?  By the job?  By the hour?  Looking at the safety path budget chart below, HRC collects around $250,000 to $300,000 every year, just for safety paths that bring in a tax revenue of $1.6 million.
  • In 2014 competitive bids were solicited and only one bidder, Italia, responded.  What kept others from bidding that year?  Some language in the bid documents?  In 2015, bids went out and 4 companies submitted bids.  Italia won the bid again, but looking at the bid results, Italia had an * by each project A-G that * represented that the engineer had to adjust the information.  The second bidder had no adjustments needed.   Getting many contractors to bid becomes difficult when the same contractor is always awarded the job year after year or simply handed the job.  Other contractors know when something "smells" and quits bidding those municipalities or companies. The biggest "smell" is when the  other contractors learn the job gets "change orders" and becomes much more valuable.  The other bidders know when this happens.   Does a contractor that works 9 years for the same township  know how to "work the system"?  Can he bid low knowing that change orders are/could be easy to get?    Just asking.  Have no direct knowledge.
  •  This is our tax money and contracts are a legal agreement and if changes are to be made, the Board of Trustees should be involved in some way. The finance director should have written documents authorizing paying something other than the bid price.   
  • All companies bidding work in this township should know and feel confident that the submitted bid that gets the job will have the terms of the contract enforced and that they will be paid the bid price and that any contract "change orders" will be rare.
Trustees and taxpayers should know and be told the truth about ALL contracts award/completed and how much paid.  There should be documents easily accessible for any FOIA requested.  Not like the $9000.00  FOIA  proposed charge recently for costs of projects completed in water and sewer and other information. 
  • Was there a performance/completion date in the contract awarded ?  
  • If not met, were there monetary penalties?  Was overtime permitted and paid?
  • Were any work orders added?  Changed? Were materials/supply items changed or substituted for other products?   Did the price get adjusted at any time during the project?  For what reason?   What was the final total amount paid to the winning bidder ?  Is there written and signed change orders?  Did neighbors near the project get "things fixed" ?  Did those "fixes" get added into the final figure?
  • Were the contractors asked to do "something else" while nearby and "available" ?  If so, did they get a separate contract to do that? or was that just an "add on" to the final bill? Or a favor
  • There must be an end to this "no bid" culture at the township. "   At this 3/28/16  meeting, there was NO exact figure to complete the new 2016 safety paths.  Just a budget estimate of "not to exceed".  Well, we know what the final number will come in... the top of that estimate.     
  •  The Supervisor and/or Trustees just repeat the words:  "at last year prices"  in their motion for the unit costs yet they have no clue what those were.   Perhaps some portion of the new proposed project is completely different and uses other materials. Therefore, some unit prices will not be in last years quote to use.  So.... those unit prices could be sky high.  No other bids to compare figures.
  • It is so frustrating and wrong when the Board of Trustees just basically hands a blank check for the contractor to fill out and collect our tax dollars.   A "no bid" contract allows a lot of room for the "family and friends" culture to profit. 
NEVER MENTIONED .... BUT A CONCERN...   A few years ago,  I realized that the township started paying a township employee to be the "safety path"  head guy.  This salary, benefits, pension costs were now being subtracted from this millage money earmarked for building and maintaining safety paths.  This year, they also used safety path millage money to buy a  $78,500 truck.  For heavens sake, the township has a $4 MILLION + road department budget with enough equipment to shame Oakland County's road department.  Does the township really need to take money for an employee and a vehicle away from the funds earmarked for building safety paths?

See the budget below.  For this 2016-2017 budget year the employee costs total:  $56,831 for a $35,420.00 year employee.   $6,231 for just one township employee to pay the pension bond/account.   $11,060.00  for just one township employee Life and Health Insurance costs.  Really?  Help us all...the township obligations are already unsustainable and the contracts expire soon.   What next?

In this past budget year ending March 31, 2016.... since the township didn't spend most of the money in 2014-2015...the safety path millage money was used to purchase at a truck at acost of:  $78,500.00.   It was NOT an agenda item this past year and no discussion about using this millage money or the NEED for this truck... but the township claims because Supervisor Savoie and Finance Director Jason Theis, put this line item for a truck in the Budget... and because the Trustees voted FOR the budget in March of 2015... it was an approved purchase.  Who knew it was put in the budget and if so, why not speak up and ask questions?  This tactic has been used for other line item surprises.

This is what the DEPARTMENT HEAD, Wayne Domine suggested in a written letter to Supervisor Savoie and included in the Board Packet for the Trustees to read. He also presented this at the meeting along with a man from HRC to convince the Board that this was the best way to vote:  
Another NO BID contract... read below: 


Vote: 5 yes - to grant a "no bid" contract and other recommendations
         1 no (Devine)       
                 Buckley: absent/Easter vacation with family.  

Same #$%@  happening at the township. 

Trustees should have voted ...   to send the new safety path proposed jobs....  out for competitive bids.

My opinion.