South 4th Water Main Project Got Weird before It Died

This is an item from the May 27 council meeting agenda that I’ve been meaning to address.

It’s about a water main project on South 4th Street.

This project would have abandoned a 6” water main on the west side of Route 23 (South Fourth Street) from Lacas Street south to approximately 110 feet south of Charter Street. There are approximately twenty services that would have been be disconnected from the 6” main on the west side of Route 23 and be reconnected to the 8” main on the east side.

The project was already coordinated with the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is planning to resurface Route 23. It does make sense to do the underground work first if possible.

However, at the May 27 council meeting the one proposal sent in was rejected.

Here’s the condensed version: The budget for this project was $200,000, the engineer’s estimate was $365,700 and single response to the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP) came to $575,000.

(Click on the image below, then twice on the magnifier icon on the lower right to get the largest version.)
S. 4th Water Main Estimates photo S4thwatermainduelingestimates_zps9cbbd483.jpg

Let’s generate possible reasons it turned out this way.

1. The engineer is really bad at estimates.
2. Prices changed drastically between the time of the engineer’s estimate and the actual proposal.
3. Somebody wanted to kill the project.

As a DeKalb south-sider I feel inclined to adopt a working hypothesis tied to the demise of the South 4th Street TIF proposal. This is due to the sequence of events. You see, council approved distribution of the RFP during its regular meeting March 10 (see Consent Agenda) but later that same evening the South 4th TIF plan was killed. Then the solo proposal sent in response to the RFP contained estimated costs so far removed from what’s budgeted that they cannot be accepted.

It all seems a bit coincidental. Does the death of the TIF plan — horrible as it was — mark the end of the south side’s chance for infrastructure love?

About a week ago I sent the city engineer a short list of questions about the discrepancies in estimates. He seems reluctant to answer them in writing, but if he changes his mind I’ll be happy to print what he sends.