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Lancaster contracts design engineer for culvert repair/replacement project
By Lee Chowaniec
May 22, 2012, 16:08
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By a four to one vote, the Lancaster Town Board authorized Supervisor Dino Fudoli to enter into an agreement with Erdman Anthony to provide engineering services for the design, construction administration and resident inspection phases for the 2012 Culvert Replacements and Structure Repairs project; for a set fee not to exceed $115,200.

On April 2, 2012, the town approved a resolution to bond $1.3 million to fund a capitol improvement project consisting of the reconstruction, construction and installation of culverts for Olmstead Avenue, Grant Street, Forestream, Erie Street and Lake Avenue, including all preliminary work and necessary equipment, materials and related site work and any preliminary costs and other improvements and costs incidental thereto as more specifically described in a report prepared by DiDonato Engineering and Design Professionals.

At that time (April 2, 2012), it appeared DiDonato who had performed services for the town before and had provided a detailed list describing design, construction, inspection, etc. costs over the last two years was going to be chosen to do the project work for $1.3 million. The project list also included geotechnical investigation, environmental review and design work. The cost also included construction inspection cost and legal fees and contingencies.

Writer addresses board

Tonight the board is voting on a resolution to enter into an agreement with Erdman Anthony to provide the engineering services at a cost of $115,200. When examining the recent design engineering costs submitted by DiDanato for the five culverts, their cost was listed at $146,000. I well understand that is a cost savings of near $31,000. Was this design engineering company selected because they were the low bidder?

Councilman John Abraham, resolution sponsor, answered that the schedule that Erdman Anthony presented to do the work on was the fastest. ďAs you heard in the work session Supervisor Fudoli, Bob Harris and William Shutt (Town Engineering firm) met and agreed it was the turn-around time, team structure, comparable project experience, and cost estimate that led to the determination.

Chowaniec: As this project can be considered as professional service, is it true that it did not have to go to bid?

Abraham: No, it did not have to go to bid.

Chowaniec: From the language of the April 2, 2008 resolution it appeared DiDonato had been chosen to do the work and I am asking these questions to understand whatís changed and why. Considering that DiDanato does a lot of work for the county, does a lot of bridge inspection work and is a highly acclaimed company, is the reason I am asking whether cost savings was the primary reason the town considered bidding this project out and not selecting DiDanato.

Supervisor Dino Fudoli: It is something I wanted put out for bid. I approached our town engineering firm on the matter and asked them to write the bid specs for the project. I wanted to make sure that the taxpayers are getting the bang for their money.

Chowaniec: I would like to then ask on the timeline of the project. This project has been delayed for over two years. The Grant Street Bridge has been closed for over a year. Had the town moved on DiDanato doing the project, there would have been enough time to complete the five projects this summer. Considering we are just now contracting a design engineer and have yet to formally approve a construction contractor, what are we looking at as a timeline for the project to begin and to be completed?

We are already in the second half of May. According to the April 2nd DiDanato design time line, the survey, geotechnical and final design will take three months; the bidding process 2 months and construction 4 months. The two year delay in getting this done by the previous administration has increased the project cost by 20%. And we have yet to have a construction cost bidding process that will delay this project even more. At least I have seen no bid process notice.

Town Engineer Robert Harris: I take exception to this personally. We did not ask for bids. We asked for proposals for professional engineering. The project cost was one factor. Whoís the staff, what the contractor did before, and other considerations were examined. We received proposals, we reviewed resumes, and it was not a bid per se. We send out a request for proposals and that includes not only the price but their professional qualifications as well.

Chowaniec: I appreciate your giving me the information on the bid process. I am not an expert in this like you are and is the reason why I am asking questions and making comments.

Let me then ask you, Mr. Harris, about the timeframe for completion, as this process is again being delayed. The Grant Street Bridge has been closed for over a year. This can has been kicked down the road for too long.

Supervisor Fudoli: This is my call. This has nothing to do with anyone else on the board. It was my call to put it out to bid because I had promised the taxpayers to be fiscally responsible. I understand that it has been two years that this has been going on. My responsibility is to the taxpayers from January 1, 2012 and over the next four years. I understand the bid was out there, but through this process we will be able to save $70,000 when you look at what the total job cost will be. Two weeks is a small price to pay to delay the project for $70,000. That was my decision to do this.

Chowaniec: So, itís not to getting too late in the year to complete this project?

Fudoli: I donít think so.

Harris: Our RFPíS (requests for proposal) specifically said that the town wanted to replace those two culverts (Grant Street and Olmstead) this year. Every proposal that came in from the professionals said they could get the design done in time for that to happen. Come October, when we find they were all overly optimistic, I canít promise that they will deliver what they promised. Four out of four came back and said we can have the bids on the street in time to get it up this year.

Chowaniec: All I am looking for here is information. You have five projects to work on. Two are of primary concern to not only me, but to the residents who live in the vicinity of the Grant Street Bridge. I know family and friends who live there are asking why the delay.

If itís cost savings, I appreciate that because thatís why this guy was voted into office; for fiscal responsibility. On the other hand, I am concerned on the delay and whether the project will be started and completed by yearís end. Itís been over two years and the Grant Street Bridge will be down through the summer months.


Had this project been acted upon when proposed a few years ago, it is estimated the cost would have been lower by 20%.

Lancaster has infrastructure issues. The capital improvement bond of $1.3 million is but part of a larger capital improvement project that is estimated to be $5 million; to be used to address other culvert and road issues.

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Lancaster contracts design engineer for culvert repair/replacement project

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