How much is awarding city-funded projects to locally qualified professionals worth?
Eureka board of aldermen debated at Tuesday evening's meeting whether a Eureka-based contractor—opposed to an out-of-town contractor—intentionally should receive the electrical portion of a $6.85 million contract to build a new recreation center in Eureka, even though the bid from the local contractor would prompt an increase of $31,000 to the budget total. They eventually decided to approve the $6.85 million contract without authorizing the additional requested cost, and instead intended to invoke a clause of the contract with Wright Construction Services Inc. that allows questions about subcontractors to be addressed for 14 days following the contract being signed.
Mayor Kevin Coffey said at the meeting six or seven individuals had contacted him Tuesday prior to the meeting about the matter. He stood firm at different times during the meeting that he believed the local contractor, , was the most efficient professional for the electrical job, which was not the recommended subcontractor reflected in the contract: St. Peters-based Fry Electrical, Inc.
Coffey also stood firm on Wednesday in his decision to not sign the ordinance related to the approved contract, telling Eureka-Wildwood Patch he would rather delay the contract than not have the best project execution possible.
"If we would move forward with the contract as we left it Tuesday, we essentially had an incomplete agreement. We know it's incomplete, and those never turn out right. I don't want to get a project going that aldermen feel they have concerns about," said Coffey on Wednesday.
"But that means we have no approved contract, which leaves the project up in the air at the moment."
Coffey said he hopes issues could get resolved quickly and perhaps be worked out before the next aldermen's meeting on Sept. 18.
During the guest period of Tuesday's board meeting, Ken Landwehr, representing IBEW Local 1 encouraged aldermen to consider local contractors represented by the union due to their extensive amount of specific training and electrical experience, compared to other types of contractors who add on electrical work. As was pointed out at the meeting, some of those bidding on the recreation center project were carpenters who now also do electrical work.
Eureka resident since 1998 Tim Berry said at the meeting he would appreciate the work going to a local professional. "I believe it's in our best interest to keep such as a large and important project here at home."
Eureka Ward 3 aldermen Don Beckerle asked what percentage of the overall cost the electrical portion would be for the new center, trying to reason how to prioritize the issue at hand. "We have to be careful about this."
Shannon Britt, also a Ward 3 aldermen, said, "I am among the first ones to want to use locally available professionals, but I'm also one who wants to do fudiciary responsibility. We haven't even broken ground and we'd already be going over the budget with this increase for electrical support."
Britt said while he does not want to micromanage the new construction project, he does want to see and understand any proposed change orders. "The idea of changes is scaring me because this is happening on my watch," he said. "I am 100 percent behind this project, but I don't want to see any overruns."
Beckerle agreed about the challenges of the situation. "Where does it stop? Should we be looking at other local bidders who wanted to participate? I wish Butler would have been able to do the work for the same price as outlined. Where does the line get drawn?"
Plans for the new Eureka Recreation Center were released for bid on June 22.
The Eureka Parks & Recreation Department oversees and maintains more than 164 acres of park and public land, which includes nine parks, featuring trails, playgrounds, tennis, basketball, sand volleyball and handball courts, baseball, football and soccer fields, a stocked lake, disc golf course and a community center. Parks & Recreation director Missy Rathmann said the new center will serve as the indoor/outdoor recreation hub for the community.