Bad Bids: Is taxpayer money is being poured down the drain? - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Bad Bids: Is taxpayer money is being poured down the drain?

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TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Toledo residents paying an ever increasing rate for their water and sewage services may soon have something else to complain about.

A WTOL 11 investigation has uncovered a chronic problem in the many Toledo projects going on throughout the city.

Bids from contractors for Toledo city projects are being readily accepted, but the final costs to taxpayers are thousands over the original bid amounts.

These types of bids are based on unit prices. For instance, the contractor draws up a bid that lays out how much it will take to fix the sewer lines and also how much it will take to rebuild the road once the sewers have been fixed.

Gary Resnick owns LaSalle Cleaners at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and 10th street where the city of Toledo repaired aging sewer lines in 2010.

Resnick said the project crippled his business until it was completed in November of last year. He said it took him about six months to build back the 20 percent his business dropped during the six-month project.

"The contractor hit a gas line not once but twice and those caused evacuations," said Resnick. "We also had situations where we were kind of closed in because of dirt and sand. You really couldn't see the business. It was kind of buried."

WTOL 11 looked at records for the Jefferson Avenue project. The bid amount to repair the sewer lines was bid at nearly 1.6 million dollars. In the end, however, it cost almost 2.57 million dollars.

Robin Whitney is the commissioner of engineering services for the city of Toledo and says she closely monitors the costs of the many projects underway in the city.

Whitney said the Jefferson Avenue project was very difficult to tackle because of the old water lines and infrastructure.

Whitney said the scope of a project is very important. As long as the conditions laid out in the bid remain the same, the cost should not change.

The Jefferson project changed soon after the digging started.

Hank's Plumbing was the contractor in charge of the Jefferson Avenue project. 

Representatives of the company told WTOL in a phone interview that the project was rife with delays and setbacks. They admit mistakes were made, but could not point a finger at any one person.

The brick sewer line began to cave in during the project and a large rain storm also compounded the problem. Vandalism to hoses and equipment also contributed to the delays and increased costs and worker ran into other things underground that were never documented.

Dave Welch is the director of Public Utilities for the city of Toledo.  He said he is aware of the discrepancies between the initial bids and the final costs, but he said they projects are simply essential to shore up a crumbling infrastructure.

City leaders say there have been some projects that have come in under the bid amounts and they're confident in the bid process, even when the final costs are well beyond the initial bid.

"So long as the supplemental work is reasonable for what's being done, it's not really an overage, it's a change in the situation," said Joe McNamara, Utilities and Public Service chair for the City of Toledo.

George Robinson, commissioner of the Toledo Waterways Initiative said they keep close tabs on costs.

"We do a very thorough review of how every dollar and cent is spent," said Robinson.

Whitney said the discrepancies between the bid amounts and final costs are actually quite normal.

Here are a few examples of the differences between how much a project was projected to cost, and how much taxpayers actually paid.

  • Detroit Ave. Phase one. Bid: $12,563,000. Final cost: $12,793,833.
  • Devilbiss and Lockwood sewer in Berdan. Bid: $2,610,245. Final cost: $2,944,608.
  • Devilbiss and Lockwood in Sylvania - Bid: $8,977,711. Final cost: $9,522,913.
  • Peterson ditch construction. Bid: $3,745,000. Final cost: $3,953,561.
  • Jefferson Ave Rehab. Bid: $1,587,407. Final cost: $2,567,881.
  • Dorr Street Main Replacement. Bid: $3,445,739. Final cost: $3,596,612.
  • Berkey pump station.  Bid: $408,000. Final cost: $425,945
  • Water main replacement on Secor - Bid $181,000. Final cost: $197,323.
  • Ash-Columbus storage pipeline. Bid: $6,430,010. Final cost: $6,435,222.
  • Berkey water tower. Bid: $479,500...final: $499,307
  • Berkey pump station. Bid: $408,000...final: $425,945
  • Water main replacement on Secor - bid $181,000...final: $197,323>

In fact it's so common, of the major projects we reviewed, 30 percent of them had final costs more than the original bids.

$200,000 here, $300,000 there, $600,000 here, and some of those projects are not finished yet.

Plus, there are water and sewer projects that have hugely impacted businesses, not just LaSalle Cleaners.

Representatives of Boyd's Retro Candy said they had to cut back on workers' schedules, and the former owner of the Acapulco Real restaurant said one of the big reasons he had to close was because of city repairs.

Resnick was able to get a loan through the city that he said helped him defray the hits he took during the Jefferson Avenue project.

But who will compensate Toledo taxpayers for the unexpected drain on city resources brought on by bad bids?

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