Public works committee recommends to cap project payment to HMG

Public works committee recommends to cap project payment

By Rick Wade
The mayor’s public works and lakes committee unanimously recommended Jan. 15 that the city of Carlinville not pay any outstanding unpaid bills from the engineering firm HMG Engineers Inc. of Carlyle for the Loveless Park sidewalk project.

Those bills are for additional engineering work that HMG performed without authorization from the committee or the council.

According to city attorney Will Hebron, the city has paid $26,671.79 to HMG for the sidewalk project, with additional outstanding bills totalling $6,545.34. The original task order totaled approximately $16,000.

Scott A. Rakers, vice president and chief transportation engineer for HMG, noted that there are four unpaid invoices for engineering work done on the sidewalk project totalling $9,079.26.

The issue has been the subject of debate and discussion at numerous committee and council meetings.

Alderman Joe Direso, a member of the public works committee, drew a line in the sand on the issue.

“My recommendation would be we stop at the $27,000 (we’ve already paid), and that’s our adjustment at that point,” Direso said.

“Herein lies the problem for me. It’s like sending in your car for an oil change and it comes out with a new transmission. Nobody bothered to tell you that happened. For me, if it would have been the first time, I could understand, but it’s happened before with some work at the lake. It’s nothing against HMG, they’ve worked with the city for a lot of years. But whenever we hit that $16,000 limit, somebody should have stopped and said the project was going over and we need more money. The problem is, that was not done. I can tell you, I don’t spend my own money that way, and neither will I spend the taxpayer’s money that way.”

Direso said he would like to see going forward that all bills received by the city be detailed and not merely labeled “general services,” and also be initialed by department supervisors. “I think that’s only fair,” he added.

Mayor Robert Schwab said that during conversations with Rakers, he was told the work had already been done in order to do the job “the right way” and that the work had been OK’d by the former public works director.

“If a city representative OK’d the work after the fact, it does not make it right,” said Direso.

Schwab said there has been an accumulation of more work on the project and that at some point the former public works director should have told the committee she was spending the extra money.

After some discussion, Direso made a motion to cap the payments to HMG for the project at what had already been paid, leaving the balance owed unpaid.

When committee chairman Jan Best asked for a second, none was forthcoming.

“Hearing no second, the motion dies,” said Best.

The mayor asked Rakers how much of the additional work that was done had been authorized by the former public works director.

Rakers said, to the best of his recollection, most of the work had already been done before the public works director was notified.

“I don’t want any ill feelings with anybody, and if you feel that way about the $9,000, I’m OK with that,” Rakers said. “Let’s move on. If that’s what you want, that’s fine. It won’t hurt my feelings. It won’t be easy, but we’ll get through it.”

Alderman Brian Mitchell said, “Having been on the other side of this situation, here’s my conflict. The work’s been done. It’s not like they are asking for money for work they haven’t done. I’m not happy with the figures. But procedures were not followed.”

“My problem is, we started out at $16,000 and now we’re darn near $36,000. I just can’t stomach that,” said Direso. “I don’t think it’s right. The work should have been halted, and somebody should have come back to the city. … It’s not acceptable.”

Direso then made a new motion stating that the $9,079.26 be considered an adjustment from HMG.

The motion passed unanimously.

The city council will consider the motion at the next city council meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 21.