Naperville council tables road work bids

Presented with two nearly identical bids for the city’s summer road improvement program that came in well above engineers’ projections, the Naperville City Council has declined to give the work to either contractor. They asked city staff to adjust the scope of the project, check to see what other communities’ costs look like, and perhaps look for additional quotes.

The $5 million proposal from the two initial bidders drew little support from the officials, who were taken by surprise when the numbers wound up 13 percent higher than expected. Bill Novack, director of Transportation, Engineering and Development, said increases in the cost of liquid asphalt and Portland cement contributed significantly to the higher quotes.

Another factor, Novack said, was that the second phase of the road work was advertised later in the year than the first portion, which was awarded in early spring.

“When we bid these in January, we’re able to get some more competitive prices because the contractors are trying to line up work for the year,” he said.

The bid package by law will have to be restructured if the process starts over, but Novack said that isn’t problematic. Some street work can be put off until next year, and other stretches of road that didn’t weather the winter as well as usual, after the original specifications were put together, can be added to the mix, he said.

“We can change it up,” Novack said, but he offered no guarantees that the new numbers would come in lower. “It’s not the best time of year to go out and rebid. It’s a competitive season.”

Officials also discussed at some length whether they would like to craft a policy giving preference to locally based contractors when other particulars of submitted bids are equal. The two prices received for the road work were $5,049,362.20, submitted by R.W. Dunteman, based in Addison; and $5,050,000, received from K-Five Construction, which is headquartered in Lemont but has two properties in Naperville. The pair of quotes were the only ones received after the city sent out 164 notices and issued 11 sets of specifications.

City Manager Doug Krieger said the Naperville Development Partnership historically hasn’t been supportive of a local bidder preference, maintaining that such policies encourage neighboring towns to follow suit, which would put Naperville businesses at a disadvantage when they seek work in adjacent communities. That mind set is evolving, though.

“They appear to be much more open to the idea of a local vendor preference than they have been in years past,” Krieger said.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong noted that labor rates increased on June 1, and cautioned his colleagues to be mindful of what happened when Aurora let a contract to a local vendor over an out-of-town competitor whose bid came in lower.

“Aurora’s still suffering from what they did 10 years ago,” Hinterlong said, alluding to lingering consequences that sometimes bring the city just one bid for a contract. “They lost that whole season of construction because it was tied up in court. We can’t afford that.”

A decision still could be made at the council’s June 17 meeting, but in addition to the possibility that the new numbers will come in not much lower than the pair already received, Novack said putting off the awarding of a contract until mid-July would delay the start of work several weeks, likely extending the project’s completion until about Halloween.

“October can be a beautiful month. It can also be a very terrible month, especially for asphalt paving. It can be cold, it can be wet,” he said, adding that the city program that has residents rake their leaves into the street for mechanical pickup would further complicate the task. “Can we still pave around it? We still can. Will it create some more hassle and a little more stress? Yes, but it can always be done.”

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