Evanston aldermen Monday night approved a contract to replace sidewalks on three blocks of Central Street, even though the low bid came in 30 percent over estimates.
Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said a flood of new construction projects this year — including work on the Illinois Tollway and O’Hare Airport — have left contractors with more work than they can handle and has dramatically raised the price of key supplies, like concrete.
The low bid, from A. Lamp Concrete Contractors of Schaumburg, came in at just over $1.1 million.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested holding off on the project in hopes the city could get a more competitive bid next winter, since contractors are generally more hungry for work at that time of year.
But Robinson said much of the construction industry is booming now after years of an economic downturn — so there’s no guarantee that waiting would get the city a lower price.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the block of the project in her ward, between the east and west legs of Prairie Avenue, has vaults under the sidewalks once used to store coal for the shops. Those vaults now are leaking, she said, and the sidewalks can’t be successfully replaced without filling in the vaults.
Alderman Delors Holmes, 5th Ward, said the conditions on the block amount to a public safety issue and the city needs to get the work done.
Alderman Mark Tendam, whose 6th Ward will see sidewalks replace on the north side of Central between Ewing Avenue and Lincolnwood Drive as part of the project, said the work has been delayed for several years and that he doubted costs will be lower in the future.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that staff next month would present the council with a list of several construction projects that it plans to postpone because of increasing costs, but said he believed this project was sufficiently urgent that it should go ahead despite the higher-than-projected expense.
The aldermen approved the contract on an 8-1 vote with Alderman Fiske voting against it.