• Council member wants to keep city contracts local

  • With the city facing federal regulations, the $20 million contract for improvements to the 34-year-old Rock Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is necessary.

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  • With the city facing federal regulations, the $20 million contract for improvements to the 34-year-old Rock Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is necessary.
    But an Independence City Council member Monday night expressed his disappointment that the project’s contract was awarded to a company with headquarters outside of the Kansas City area.
    District 2 Council Member Curt Dougherty was the lone opposing vote for a $20,581,299 contract with Whiting-Turner Contracting, which included a base bid and two alternate bids. While Whiting Turner-Contracting Company has an office in Kansas City, the company’s headquarters is in Baltimore and it has 30 locations across the United States. Its base bid was more than $263,000 higher than the lowest base bid.
    “I’m still pretty disappointed that the lowest bidder was a local Kansas City company,” Dougherty said, “and (the city) chose an out-of-town contractor because they were cheap on two of the four extras, even after the city said they weren’t going to do some of the extras.”
    According to city staff, increased federal regulations require disinfecting of the plant’s facilities to take place by Dec. 31, 2013, as well as ammonia removal to be incorporated by March 30, 2014.
    Design improvements to the plant made up the project’s base bid, and the Water Pollution Control Department requested bids for four alternative projects, two of which will take place (primary and sludge mixing basin rehabilitation and laboratory improvements).
    Whiting-Turner Contracting had the second lowest base bid, with Foley Company coming in with the lowest base bid at $20,318,275. (Whiting-Turner did come in lower overall with the alternate bids at $233,000 total compared to Foley Company’s $361,000 total.) Founded in Kansas City in 1913, Foley Company is based in Kansas City, with branches in Sedalia, Mo., and Nashville, Tenn.
    “It’s a good thing,” Dougherty said, that several of the subcontractors for the project are Kansas City-area companies, keeping the money local. But his concerns were strong enough to lead Dougherty to vote against the ordinance.
    “What concerns me is there’s got to be some profit from $20 million, or they wouldn’t be in this business,” Dougherty said. “... I know we have a preference, in our ordinance, that we should take local contractors. I’m real disappointed that a local contractor didn’t get it. If a $20 million contract makes or breaks it for that guy, where does that company go when they’re gone, and when will they hire local contractors?”
    While District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir voted in favor of the contract, she said she agreed with Dougherty and that her preference is to choose a local contractor over a national contractor for municipal projects.
    Weir did request a list of subcontractors for the project and learned that many of them are local contractors. She also suggested that city officials periodically review their policies to ensure that consideration is given to local contractors with large contracts, especially when they reach tens of millions of dollars.
    Page 2 of 2 - “A significant amount of that work will be performed by subcontractors who are here in Jackson County,” Weir said. “... I think that, at some point in time, we should, as a council in conjunction with our staff, periodically review (policy) and make sure that we are giving the proper amount of consideration to local contractors on these projects.”

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