Council debates cost overruns

By Dave Lindeman - For the Courier

HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights City Council members had no doubts Monday night that the bills should be paid. There was some question, though, about how much some of the city’s big projects end up costing.

The question came up as council considered a resolution to add $20,000 to the water system pressure upgrade project north of Interstate 70. The extra funds were needed for a consultant to review portions of the plan, answer technical questions and help monitor the project.

Councilman Glenn Otto said he supported the project, but wondered about adding costs to projects beyond the initial approved costs.

“We have seen projects that have come in to be more in the end than they started out and I don’t know exactly what might be the cause of that,” Otto said. “I don’t know if we need a review of our estimating procedure or bid procedures or whatever.”

He went on to say that the city needs to “tighten up that process in a way that allows us to not come back” for more money on projects.

City Manager Rob Schommer explained the city’s process for estimates and bids. He said the city hired a consultant for the estimate on the water pressure project but that changes in variables such as labor costs and materials costs caused changes.

“There’s a strong likelihood that when we get into these technical projects in the future when we hire a consultant to do the initial estimate and design that the actual quote is going to be off,” Schommer said. “I’m not really sure if there’s anything we can do about that because we can’t dictate how the contractors are going to quote a bid due to supplies and their ability to mobilize workforce, etc.”

Councilman Mark Campbell suggested the city conduct a study of past major projects to determine how often extra costs were added to projects. Otto agreed with the idea, suggesting going back possibly a decade on projects. He said he wasn’t concerned with estimated being off but with differences between the original bid on a project and the eventual cost of the project.

Council Member Nancy Byrge said the extra $20,000 was a safety issue and was well worth the expenditure. She said if a study is done it should reflect if costs were added for specific reasons such as extra consultants.

Councilman Richard Shaw supported the idea of a study going back 10 years. Mayor Jeff Gore said he thought “this council is very mindful of taxpayer dollars.”

“I don’t want the impression that we’re just willy-nilly throwing money at contracts where it’s not necessary because that’s not what’s happening,” Gore said.

In response to a question from Campbell, Gore said he thought Council Clerk Anthony Rogers would be able to compile a report with the requested information.

Council then took a vote, with the extra expenditure passing 7-1 with Shaw voting no. After the meeting, Shaw described his no vote by saying the project is right but the finances are wrong.

Other items passed by council included:

  • Purchase of four new cars for the police department for $104,000.
  • Expenditure of $240,000 for computer and electronics for 2019 from a variety of vendors.
  • A resolution allowing for soliciting of bids and awarding of contracts not to exceed $40,000 a year for three years for maintenance and repair of traffic signals and outdoor lighting.
  • A contract with OzScapes for $26,000 for property maintenance and mowing services.
  • An agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation to smooth seal State Route 202 inside the city limits north of Gibson Drive. The city will fund 20 percent of the project, approximately $11,500.
  • A contract with Fryman-Kuck General Contractors to replace the Cosner Drive lift station for $450,000.
  • A resolution to advertise for bids for the Harshmanville Road water main replacement. The city has received a grant that will reimburse 29 percent of the project cost.

Also Monday night, Schommer told council the city’s last battle with winter weather required 94 hours of work and 1,465 tons of salt to clear the roads. He said the city is still well-stocked with salt for any future storms.

Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 11, 7 p.m., at city hall. Council will hold a work session Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at city hall.

By Dave Lindeman

For the Courier

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.

Reach Dave Lindeman at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.