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City staff will ask aldermen tonight to reject the low bidder on a repair project at the Evanston water plant and pay nearly 50 percent extra to hire a contractor willing to participate in the city’s local employment program.

The program is designed to encourage the hiring of economically disadvantaged Evanston residents on construction projects.

The water plant project is designed to repair cracks in the concrete of the two oldest clearwells or storage reservoirs at the plant, constructed in 1914 and 1924.

The low bidder on the project, Walsh Construction of Chicago, offered do do the work for just under $303,000, but requested a waiver of the local employment program rules.

The next low bidder, Joseph J. Henderson & Son of Gurnee, agreed to comply with the local employment program, but bid $452,000 to do the work.

The city’s engineering consultant on the project had estimated the work would cost $383,000.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. Fire the staffer and hire Walsh construction

    This is absurd ! City staff is recommending that taxpayers pay 50% more for this project?

    A 5-15% premium is understandable and could be acceptable, but 50%?

    Our Alderman have a fiduciary responsibility to Evanston taxpayers, and anyone who votes in favor of the contract that requires taxpayers to pay 50% more should get voted out of office.

    And some people wonder why taxpayers are upset and cynical and skeptical about our government?

    This example is beyond ridiculous.

    1. Time to find a good lawyer!

      If the city of Evanston awards a contract to a firm with a bid of 50% more than a qualified lower bidder, the tax payers should go to court to stop the contract. I can understand if the lower bidder is not qualified but Walsh Construction is very good group. This is a great example of what is wrong with our elected representatives and our city staff. We need to be responsible with our money and stop the “feel good” stuff! Low qualified bidder – WINS! Done! Does Evanston want to build a fence around our lovely city? Is it OK if people from other communities spend money in Evanston? I work for a company in the NW suburbs and pay my taxes with income earned outside of Evanston. That we are even talking about this is ridiculous. It is time for our elected officials to stand up and understand the economic times in our world. Stop over spending on projects.

    2. Well – we could reduce the

      Well – we could reduce the city staff budget by $150k to compensate.

      But I agree – adding 50% to the budget would be borderline criminal neglect to me no matter how good the intentions.

    3. Recall Petitions ?

      It has been obvious for years that we need to recall some or all of the Council members.  This would be a good test case.  Start with any alderman that votes yes on the higher contract.

      Years ago Evanston voters cut the size of the Council, it is time to do so again. Evanston has one alderman for every 8,300 people, Chicago one for every 54,000.

    4. What is the message from city government to tax payers?

      Do they see us as money trees with no better place to spend our money?  City council needs to send a strong message that this is not the case.

  2. Higher payments [taxpayer dollars] for Council Social Policy
    This is inane to spend more just because of a mis-directed policy.
    Do Council, Manager and staff pay more to hire their personal maids, house cleaners, painters, lawncare, etc. from Evanston ?

  3. Fiscally Stupid

    ~~We are going to spend an extra $150K to be socially correct and fiscally irresponsible? In these times when the state may cut off local funding causing layoffs including public services? And taxes and fees keep going up?

    Walsh is a large well known (and well connected) company. The next bidder may be equally good but not $150K more.

  4. Policy is at stake
    If the city makes an exception to the hire local rule in this case, then they will always have to make an exception. That would effectively kill the rule. Imo, they should kill the rule but that is a policy decision for the council to make. It is reasonable for a staffer to point this out.

  5. Lawn signs, anyone?
    If the city council goes along with this idiotic idea we need to have lawn signs for the next election that simply states “IF YOU”RE IN, YOU”RE OUT!”

  6. Subsidize Evanston workers, not their employers

    Evanston should offer to pay the employer's share of Social Security for any Evanston resident employed by a City contractor. At most, the subsidy would be roughly 7.5% of the wage bill. The contractors then have an incentive to hire locally, rather than a requirement to do so. When bidding, the contractor most able to hire locally would be able to bid more competitively, in effect, reducing the City's subsidy.

  7. Irresponsible
    I just saw another article on Evanston Now regarding emergency repairs to the Central Street bridge which are expected to cost us $163k. It is irresponsible for the city to overpay on the water plant project, especially in this time of cutbacks. The difference in cost would be better spent on job training than putting it into a contractors pocket.

  8. Do we want other cities to bar Evanston workers ?
    If the Council makes decisions to favor Evanston contractors even when they are qualified and bid 50% less, are we inviting other cities to bar Evanston companies from working even when Evanston’s bid is lower and the workers qualified ?
    What other excuses would the Council set out ? Exclude companies that are Right to Life, favor Israel, pro-Islam, and so forth ?

    We should also ask why Evanston companies can be underbid. High Evanston taxes, cost of permits, costs regulations and filing forms, required agreements to pay above private industry, requirements to hire select groups [women, Hispanic, LGBT, only members of [favored or connected] unions, business that contributed to favored political party, or any number of ad hoc criteria ?
    The Council does not seem to understand they are there to provide cost effective services and not further their political/social causes.
    By the ideas they keep coming up with they don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they shoot the taxpayers.

  9. There are better options

    Taxes are only going up to Infinity and Beyond. government services are being gutted to pay the pension bills. Fortunately you don't have to stay and pay while enduring that misery. Fiscally Responsible Pro-Growth Government with an AAA credit rating, 2.2 Billion dollar Surplus, 50% lower taxes is right across the border in Indiana. The hard working taxpayers are in control of our government. Unlike the special interest groups and unions in Illinois. More and more businesses and families are moving across the state line every day. Are you going to be left behind to pay the bills? Or will you join them?

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