This week, Forgy came to council prepared to explain what the
firm does as the interim engineers and also to pitch a more
permanent plan wherein Prairie Engineers would fill that position on
a long-term basis.
In addition, he talked to the council about how
the city can save money by "bundling" projects, which is where he
began his presentation.
Forgy used a slideshow presentation with graphs of work done
statewide in four different categories. The graphs showed what the
high and low bids on these projects had been in the state of
Illinois in the last year. Along with this, he identified where the
best price could be found as far as the amount of work done. He said
that when looking at curb and gutter work, the best bang for the
buck came when bids involved doing 20 blocks at one time.
What happens is that when a job is let out for bid, the
contractor looks at the size of the job and considers that in his
bid. If it is a very small job, he's going to bid it higher. Much of
this is because he has to move equipment to the job site and then
move it out again in a short period of time. When the contractor has
a larger job, or can do several jobs at once, he will bid it lower
because he can bring the equipment into town and keep it there until
all the work is done.
Using the same graph, Forgy superimposed the bids for the Lincoln
Avenue project and the Oglesby Avenue bridge project. He showed the
council that the Lincoln Avenue project, which is larger, came in
only slightly above the state average. The Oglesby bridge project
came in quite a bit above the state average because it is a smaller
He went through the same scenarios with graphs showing the cost
of asphalt, sidewalks and concrete. He said that in most street
projects, asphalt is going to constitute 50 percent of the total
cost. By bundling projects, the cost of the asphalt will drop
because the contractor can purchase larger quantities at a time.
Forgy explained that in the case of the state averages, the most
cost-effective bids were for a minimum of 10 blocks at a time for
asphalt, five to six blocks at a time for sidewalk replacement and
one block at a time for concrete streets.
He then offered the council a comparison of what they could have
saved had they bundled three projects into one bid and one job for
Using the Lincoln Avenue project and Oglesby bridge project,
which have not been done, and the Brainard's Branch bridge
approaches, which have been done, he showed the council that had
they done all three at once, their overall savings on the three
projects could have been around $30,000, or 8 percent of the total
Forgy then talked about when is the best time to negotiate a
price, which offered a segue into the next part of the presentation.
He said the best time to negotiate a price is during the bidding
process. He said this is why design plans are important to the
Forgy explained that when there are change orders involved, more
money will be spent. He said if the city bids a project, selects a
contractor, then realizes they need to make changes to the project,
the contractor is going adjust his price so he doesn't lose money on
Therefore, the best plan is to go through the design process
In the design phase, Forgy said the engineer should first
evaluate the project and the alternatives for completing it. He used
the Oglesby Bridge as an example. He said there are very few
residents on the north side of the bridge, so a cul-de-sac may not
be needed there. He said the job could include doing some curb work
and landscaping to make the area look nice for the residents, and
leave it at that.
[to top of second column]
The second part of the design phase is to consider the effects it
will have on area residents. Forgy said that considering what is
good for the residents can save money in the long run and keep the
residents happy. He said the city wouldn't want to see a resident
walk out of their home during the actual work and say, "That isn't
what I wanted." By then it is too late, Forgy said. The work has
begun, and changing it at that stage would cost more money.
And finally the design phase should provide a plan that delivers
the best value for the money and communicates the design with
sufficient detail for the work to be done satisfactorily.
In the design phase there are typically three components: the
construction plans, project specifications and contractual document
Forgy said the construction plans in the past have not always
been done when they perhaps should have been, but they are also not
He then noted that such plans are necessary for larger projects
like Lincoln Avenue and the Oglesby bridge because the city is
making significant changes to the streets.
Project specifications and contract documents are always required
in the design phase.
Forgy said the general rule of thumb is that design costs will
constitute 10 to 15 percent of the total project. He said Prairie
Engineers is not calculating charges in that fashion, though. They
instead bill according to the hours invested in the specific
project. But he said that when the city is looking at a proposal
from the firm, they should look at the overall percentage.
"If it comes 17 percent, you might want to look at that proposal
again," he said, "because either there is something really heavy in
that project, or we are out of line somewhere."
Forgy said the goal of the design plan is to reduce the overall
cost of the project.
As the city engineers, Prairie Engineers is also responsible for
services in the construction phase, including construction
administration and the other resident project representative
The project representative service means that there is a member
of the engineering firm on-site supervising the work. Forgy said
this is not always needed. He cited as an example the slip lining of
the sewers on Union Avenue. He said there was really no need for a
full-time representative at that job. On the other hand, there are
projects coming up where a representative should be at the site most
of the time.
Forgy said this was necessary in big or complex projects to
ensure that the work is being performed, to document the work done,
develop final pay amounts for the contractors and develop a "record
drawing" of the project.
He touched on the record drawing, saying there are currently many
things that are not documented for the city. He said he has had to
rely on the memory and knowledge of city officials to tell him what
has been done. He said he can also call the former engineer, Mark
Mathon, and talk to him as needed, but for the future, the city
needs to have better documentation.
Forgy then moved on to talking about the engineering services the
city is now receiving from Prairie Engineers and what he proposes
for the future.
[By NILA SMITH]
Past related articles