The city at that time had a contract for engineering services
with American Water's Environmental Management Corp. The city needed
to find out if they could get out of that contract. In the end, EMC
relinquished the contract, leaving the city free to hire its own
The interim agreement with Prairie Engineers was that
the firm would provide 160 hours per month of service to the city.
Within those 160 hours, they are to represent the city at
meetings, attend council meetings, offer project management services
and provide administrative services. Forgy said that in the three
months they have been serving the city, the firm has averaged 110
hours per month in project management and administration and
approximately 50 hours per month in project engineering.
The current contract the city has for an engineer -- the one that
would have gone to Mathon for the new year -- specifies that the
engineer will provide 1,920 hours of service to the city in a
12-month period. Forgy said he would like to see a new contract that
cuts those hours back to 1,040 hours per year.
He said this would just be one engineering contract with the
city, and there could be others to accompany it throughout the year.
In the 1,040 hours the engineers would continue with the meeting
attendance requirements, work on the capital improvement plan they
had proposed for the city, be responsible for putting together an
annual budget request for infrastructure projects, review city
development plans, and respond to inquiries from city and elected
officials on engineering-related issues.
Forgy said he would then propose that there be separate and
additional contracts for project engineering and non-repetitive
tasks that are not done annually.
He told the council the city could benefit from this type of
contract structure in that they would not have to take all the
engineering fees out of the general funds as they do now.
He said, for example, if a project is going to be paid for by the
infrastructure fund, having a separate contract for the engineer
would allow the engineer to also be paid by the infrastructure fund.
Currently a percentage of the engineering is paid by the city's
general fund and a percentage by the sewer fund.
Forgy wrapped up his presentation by telling the council that
Prairie Engineers' primary goal in presenting this type of proposal
is to actually reduce the costs to the city for their engineering
When the floor was opened for discussion and questions, several
Melody Anderson asked about some of the things the previous
engineer was doing. She mentioned that the city has a complex phone
bill that the previous engineer was overseeing. She asked if the
city engineer should really be doing that type of work. Was it
something that should perhaps be turned over to the new city
manager, when hired?
Forgy said it was not something the engineer would typically do,
and yes, it would be good to shift that responsibility to someone
Buzz Busby wanted to know if Prairie Engineers would retain
ownership of the records and documents relating to city engineering.
Forgy said he believed they would retain ownership, but that all the
documents would be available for the city if they wanted copies of
Tom O'Donohue asked how often in the past the city has had to
complete changes of orders. Forgy said in recent projects, not at
all. However, when looking at the bids for the Lincoln Avenue
project, they came up with several changes of orders that would be
needed, and those quickly added up to more than $90,000. This is the
primary reason the project was not let out for bid this year.
One of the differences between hiring a single engineer and an
engineering firm is that a firm has more manpower and more time to
perform duties. Forgy said some of the work the firm is proposing to
do includes things that Mathon simply did not have time to do within
This is why, with the larger projects, outside engineers have
been hired to do the lion's share of the work on design.
Forgy was asked if there would still be a need for those outside
engineers. He said there could be, specifically for the projects the
city is hoping to let out for bid in February. He noted that Prairie
Engineers might not have the time to get all of those projects
designed without outside help.
[to top of second column]
O'Donohue asked if they went with this type of contract plan,
what control the city would have over the costs.
Mayor Keith Snyder said the individual project contracts would be
projected in the annual budget requests. He said Prairie Engineers
would present estimated costs for each project at budget time, and
the city could then approve the costs and the project, or delay it
as they needed to for their budget constraints.
Tracy Jackson, superintendent of streets and alleys, asked if the
engineers would be responsible for the motor fuel tax reporting and
Forgy said they would, but it would be under a separate contract
that is put out by the Illinois Department of Transportation. He
said this is a prescribed contract, and the fees are determined by
IDOT. He added this could be good for the city as well, because
IDOT's fees are pretty low.
Anderson asked if that was a job the city administrator could do.
Forgy said it is possible, but not a common practice.
Anderson then offered her opinion of the proposal, saying she was
more comfortable with the separation than when it was first brought
up. She said Forgy's presentation had made it all much more clear to
her. She commented that when the city had previously gone to an
outside engineering firm, the council had never really known how
that need was determined.
Marty Neitzel then asked if the council was ready to put
something on the agenda, and all seemed to agree that they were.
Snyder said the motion would be to revise the current engineering
project management contract from 1,920 hours per year to 1,040 hours
David Wilmert then wondered if that cut was too much. He said he
didn't want the city to lose services because the engineers run out
Forgy said he didn't believe that would happen. He also added
that Prairie Engineers has in the past exceeded their hours by a
little bit, and it is not something they are concerned about.
"In the three months we've been doing this, I'm not 100 percent
comfortable we can get it all," Forgy said, "but I'm comfortable
enough that we can proceed this way."
Forgy also said if something came up that is unexpected right
now, the situation might have to be revisited. He cited as an
example, if IDOT comes up with a large-scale project for the
high-speed rail and the engineers have to study and evaluate it,
they might have to come back and ask for more hours, providing IDOT
wouldn't pay for those services out of their budget.
Neitzel asked if the contract Forgy is proposing would include
annual increases in fees. Forgy said that obviously he doesn't want
to be working for the same dollars five years from now as he is
today, but if the contract is annual, it is something that can be
discussed on a year-to-year basis. He said if the contract were a
longer-term, multiyear contract, he would want to have escalation
rates built into the contract.
Snyder asked about the five-year capital improvement plan the
engineers are working on and when it would be finished. Forgy said
the plan is moving along, and he hopes to have something to the
council within the next month.
As the discussions wound down, O'Donohue noted that the rate per
hour for the firm had increased over the interim agreement. Forgy
said the interim agreement had included the use of summer interns in
the firm, making the cost less. In the new agreement, summer interns
are not being considered. He said what was being considered was a
broad spectrum of staff, including administrative staff who will
deal with paperwork and engineers who will deal with specific
details of a project.
With the discussions concluded, the motion that will be on next
week's agenda will be a question as to whether or not the city
should change the engineering program management contract hours from
1,920 to 1,040.
[By NILA SMITH]
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