The Village of Oak Lawn issued another no bid contract for $53,000 after a short discussion in which village officials blamed previous officials, praised the engineering company and argued that it didn’t have to solicit competitive proposals or bids for the service.
Trustee Robert Streit, the only Trustee to oppose the no-bid deal, asked Mayor Sandra Bury whether the village had solicited bids. Bury referred to a previous budget meeting and failed to answer the question instead asking Village Manager Larry Deetjen to respond to whether the village solicited other prices.
Deetjen started his response by saying, “As we all know, we are privileged to have an 868 space commuter parking garage that was funded with the federal government and Metra along in partnership with the village. There was no plan of action on preventative maintenance. Hence, normally when you construct a facility circa 2004, 2005, you would plan on a preventative maintenance program, inspection schedule (but) none of that was done…”
Deetjen than went on to say that it came to the attention of the village engineer and public works department that there wasn’t a preventative maintenance plan and therefore the village approached the original engineering consultant, Walker Restoration Consultants, which he called the preeminent parking consultant in the country.
He said the village brought Walker in and the company inspected the facility and made recommendations, which reportedly will cost about $683,000 according to the company’s estimate. Deetjen said Walker will provide a “strategic plan” on how to finance and complete the work over several years.
Without receiving an answer to his original question, Streit then asked why Walker, as the original engineering consultant, didn’t recommend that the village institute a preventative maintenance plan back in 2004.
Deetjen said that he believes Walker did make such a recommendation. Deetjen said, “I wasn’t here in 2004 so I don’t know what the thinking was but it is a wonderful structure that’s well constructed but like many public buildings not a lot of attention was given to long range maintenance plans and this will be the proper and prudent way to extend the life of this asset and minimize our capital expense”.
Streit then said that since Walker was involved in the project originally it would make sense to have another set of eyes take a look since the structure is not very old. He then asked again whether the village solicited proposals or bids.
Bury defended her administration’s actions claiming that the solicitation of bids would require taking the best price when it may not be the best company. Bury said that with professional services “you look at expertise and not the cheapest”. In fact, Illinois law does not require a municipality to take the lowest bid for professional services.
Apparently frustrated with the failure to get a “yes or no” answer, Streit said, “just a simple yes or no, did it go out to bid”, causing Bury to ask Brian Hannigan the village’s Finance Director to respond to Streit’s question.
Hannigan said that it did not go out to bid. He said that he doesn’t know if Walker recommended a maintenance program. He finished his answer by saying “no, we didn’t go out and seek out 10 different engineering firms.”
At that point, with the answer provided by Hannigan, Deetjen then said he was intrigued by the questioning.
Instead of ending the conversation with Hannigan’s direct answer, he said, “let me help you out. I’m going to repeat my statement. Again, this is an outstanding public asset and it serves the most commuters on the Southwest Metra Line, the most. Every day over a thousand men and women who work in the greater Chicago area take it to Union Station and return home to Oak Lawn. Walker Consulting (sic) is the preeminent parking garage consultants. Just Google them, take a look at the parking garage they did at Geneva, Libertyville and I could go on and on just in the greater Chicago area. But, the bottom line is our engineer, Mr. Gallagher, who is sitting here tonight, reviews all of the engineering proposals, he sees what the scope of services are, what the costs are and he benchmarks it against other fine engineering firms. We use a variety of engineering firms in Oak Lawn and that was not the case in 2004. We used maybe two firms. We use CDM, we use Burke Engineering, we use Walker, we use many, many firms and we usually reach out to those with that expertise. We do the same thing when it comes to legal services, quite frankly. If we have a special case, we are going to go to a firm that has expertise in that area and we are going to hear about that when we go into executive session. It’s the same analogy. Professional services. What’s the problem? How do you correct the problem? And go seek out the very best within your budget to provide those services and I would submit to you that Walker is as good as they get and it is a fair return on your investment.”
Bury then thanked Deetjen for putting the plan together before the vote passed with Streit voting no.