Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Council looks for assurance regarding service contracts

November 10, 2010

Tonganoxie City Council members agreed Monday they would like to know the city is getting the best deal and product available from the city’s contracted engineering and planning firms, but they aren’t quite sure how to make that determination.

During last summer’s 2011 budget discussions, several council members suggested the city consider soliciting request for qualifications for the two services as a possible way to save money.

The city has contracted with Bucher Willis Ratliff Corporation for planning services since 2004 and has had a relationship with BG Consultants for engineering services since 1988.

Citing the quality work both firms had performed for the city and the knowledge they possessed from their long associations with Tonganoxie, City Administrator Mike Yanez recommended the city not request RFQs for the services. If the council wanted to explore the matter further, it should schedule a work session with the two firms regarding costs and levels of service, he said.

The city has an annual contract with both firms, but also contracts with them at reduced rate for special projects, Assistant City Administrator Kathy Bard said. Those rates could be jeopardized if the city opened up a RFQ process, she said.

Yanez pointed out the council always reviewed and approved those special-project contracts.

Although no council member expressed dissatisfaction with either firm, there was consensus the city needed to at least better justify how it contracted engineering and planning firms.

Councilman Chris Donnelly noted that two firms represented the city’s largest expenditures other than its own departments and that the city spent more than $130,000 for special project contracts with both firms in the last three years. That level of spending meant it was the council’s obligation to ensure the city was getting the best product at the best price.

“I’ve worked with both (BWR and BG consultants),” he said. “I think they do a good job. I’d like to ask what control we have to ensure we’re getting the best deal other than we feel comfortable.”

Because other cities had to make the same evaluation, Donnelly wondered if the Kansas League of Municipalities would have criteria that would help the council make an informed decision, he said.

Councilman Bill Peak, who said he was troubled with Yanez’s use of the word “cozy” and “family” to describe the city’s relationship with the two firms, also wondered how the council would make judgment on the expertise of professional planning and engineering consultants. He was also in agreement with Councilman Jim Truesdell that a work session with the two consultants would do no good.

Noting that the council had a lot of concerns, Mayor Jason Ward instructed staff to compile a rate study of engineering and planning consultants in the Kansas City metropolitan area and the Midwest for a future work session.

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