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Friday, June 16, 2006

Fleecing of Aurora | M&A Cement

Thanks to Alderman Rick Lawrence's concerns about your taxdollars and making sure taxpayers are getting what they pay for, the 2005 City of Aurora Sidewalk Replacement program is under review for shoddy work that somehow was ignored by the city and certain officials, including Mayor Tom Weisner, for almost a year.

"They're junk (sidewalks)...we took $398,000 taxpayer dollars and threw it out the window."
-Alderman Rick Lawrence

Alderman Lawrence raised objections about this last year, but it took until this week for the Mayor and city officials to finally recognize the importance of holding this contractor accountable for fleecing the taxpayers...because the media was present?

According to the local fishwrap, Daryl Devick, assistant superintendent of Public Works, admits he was told of Alderman Lawrence's concerns early in the process. So, what did he do about it?

"I wrote them (M&A Cement) a nasty letter."
-Daryl Devick, Public Works

Ooooo...he later decided to see what they were doing AFTER they had completed their work in the 4th Ward and were then in the 3rd Ward.

So, where were the city inspectors on this? They apparently were around, so we aren't sure how it got by them, but at that time, the biggest focus on inspectors was Weisner trying to get them bicycles.

At a September city council meeting, there was a disputed vote on whether to pay part of the contract, but since Mayor Tom Weisner was AWOL from the meeting, the contractor ended up getting paid.

At this week's city council meeting (the same one on the drive-in issue), there was also a disputed vote with Devick trying to gloss over the problems with the sidewalks. At first, the following Alderman voted to waste your taxdollars and look the other way on the shoddy work:

Chris Beykirch, Whitey Peters, Abby Schuler
Scheketa Hart-Burns, Michael Saville
Juany Garza, Bob O'Connor

From what understand, a strange thing then happened. The council thought they were voting for the issue, but the clerk informed them they had actually voted for a motion on the issue, so they needed to still vote again. This gave Weisner a chance to say something.

Given the massive evidence Rick Lawrence had and knowing the media had seen it and was taking notes, Weisner flip-flopped on some of his own rubber-stamps and AGREED with Alderman Lawrence that the work must be redone or action must be taken.

We even applaud Tom Weisner for following the leadership of Alderman Lawrence on this issue, even if it is only because Weisner thought he would be left out holding crumling sidewalk gravel, the media was watching and he didn't want to look (more) foolish. Whatever it takes to get Tom Weisner to do his job, we are in favor of it.

Magically, the same alderman who had just voted against Alderman Lawrence trying to hold the contractor accountable, switched and there was a new 12-0 vote to hold any payment to the contractor. What changed other than Weisner's flip-flop and permission to vote with Lawrence? Nothing. Just the mayor admitting there was a problem. Otherwise, those 7 aldermen were prepared to sweep this under the rug and toss more of your taxdollars out the window.

We agree with Alderman Lawrence. We need oversight over how ALL the contractors are doing their work and how they are getting paid when they fail. We need city staff and engineers to make sure specs are followed, not just a concept. We need immediate action when things aren't going right so we don't waste further money and time. We need the mayor and his cronies to recognize it's YOUR money. We need each member of the city council to think independently.

Great job Rick Lawrence and kudos to Alderman Stephanie Kifowit for being on the side of accountability. And yes, we even congratulate Tom Weisner for flip-flopping on those 7 Aldermen who thought they were going along with him. We wonder if those 7 have learned a lesson.


fishwrap said...

By Andre Salles

AURORA — The City Council has decided to hold off on approving a contract for some of the work involved in replacing sidewalks on the West Side last year.

The council this week discussed a change order request for M & A Cement Works of Bensenville, voicing concerns with the quality of the replacement sidewalks the company installed in the 4th Ward.

"They're junk," said 4th Ward Alderman Rick Lawrence at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "We took $398,000 (in) taxpayer dollars and threw it out the window."

This is not the first time Lawrence has raised objections with M & A's work, but it is the first time the complete council has voted to look into the issue. According to Daryl Devick, assistant superintendent for the city's Public Works Department, the sidewalks are covered under a one-year warranty, and any quality concerns will be addressed.

Lawrence complains that the tops of the sidewalk appear to be crumbling, and the edges are cracking in some cases. Lawrence says the zig-zagging nature of some of the sidewalk areas is because the proper forms, or guides for pouring concrete, were not used.

"I followed this company around for weeks, taking pictures," he said. "They just didn't do it right."

M & A representatives declined to comment for this story.

M & A was awarded the $398,121 contract to remove and replace sidewalks throughout the city on April 26, 2005. Lawrence brought up his concerns in July, which resulted in a contentious vote over paying the contract amount.

In July, $96,591 of the contract was paid, and aldermen split the vote in September to deny paying an additional $48,295. In the absence of Mayor Tom Weisner, the tie went to M & A, and the money was paid.

The issue has come up again thanks to a $9,621 change order, requested by the company for additional sidewalk replacement above and beyond the estimate in the contract. Weisner suggested holding off on paying the additional money until Lawrence's complaints could be looked into.

The company replaced roughly six miles of sidewalks across the city, starting with the 4th Ward. Devick said that he was made aware of Lawrence's issues early on, particularly the improper use of steel forms for stretches of sidewalk longer than 20 feet. Using steel forms for long stretches can cause crooked sidewalks, and the city specifications require wooden forms held securely with stakes.

"I wrote them a nasty letter," Devick said. "But by that time, they had moved on to the 3rd Ward. I met them on site there, and they were doing better quality work."

City Engineer Chris Lirot was also aware of Lawrence's complaints and said that the 2006 specifications have been revamped.

The 2006 sidewalk removal and restoration project was awarded to Globe Construction of Addison for $627,070 on May 9. M & A did submit a bid, but Globe's was lower.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rick for saving our taxpayer money and glad to see Weisner following your lead!

Anonymous said...

Those 7 aldermen must have felt like "idiots" after Weisner flipped on them. Maybe if they had used their own brain in the first place, they wouldn't have this problem.

Thanks Alderman Lawrence!

Anonymous said...

The picture is unbelievable. We were going to pay these contractors for this work. Why did the Beacon not print a picture?

Good for Alderman Lawrence. I cannot believe those seven alderman would have voted to allow payment.

You are starting to win me over Rick!

Anonymous said...

What took Weisner so darn long to figure out there was a problem? If Rick Lawrence has to do all this, then why don't we just let him be the mayor until the next election. Heck, I'd even be willing to pay Weisner's salary as long as he promises to stay away in Florida.

cracker said...

FYI - housing inspectors (inspectors on bikes) do not inspect sidewalks or the construction of sidewalks, that is all handled by the engineering department. Let us place proper blame where proper blame is due.

Openline said...

Cracker, thanks for that clarification :)

Anonymous said...

Look for David Marquez to run at large for Sheltons seat against Irvin.

Anonymous said...

David Marquez is not someone you can trust at his word. I do not care for Shelton but Marquez would be a terrible choice.

Leonard said...

On the surface this sidewalk issue may seem like much.

Last year I saw Rick on the street near my house and I went out to say hi. He then told me what he had discovered. Namely, that the specifications provided for, I believe 5 inches of concrete with one or possibly two inches of base in the form of aggregate.

Rick then proceeded to show me significant portions of sidewalk area that, one, did not have any aggregate added base and two, not five inches of concrete.

Now, for sure, it does not take five inches of concrete to build a proper sidewalk and sometimes when you disturb existing base you can cause other trouble.

However, we have to presume that the contractor computed his bid based upon the specifications as stated in the bid package created by the City. So let’s compute just what that means. The Beacon stated that the amount of sidewalk replaced was 6 miles. Let’s also presume that all of the sidewalks were shorted by 1 inch of thickness and that all of the sidewalks were five feet wide.

So we have 31,680 lineal feet of sidewalk 5 feet wide which computes to 158,400 square feet. One inch of concrete over that area equals 13,200 cubic feet which equals 489 cubic yards of concrete.

If we set a cost of concrete at that time at say $65.00 per cubic yard we get a value of $31,785.00. Remember this does not include the aggregate nor wait time if the trucks were present longer than expected.

So you say what is the problem? The problem is that the tax payers of this city were asked to pay for services not rendered. So you say that this is nothing when compared to the total budget of the City. There is an old saying that goes something like this, “You watch the pennies and the nickels and dimes will watch themselves” and Everett Dirkson said it well when he said, “A million here and a million there and pretty soon you are talking real money.”

The number given above is approximately 8% of the contract amount. Just for a minute let’s speculate that everything the City did had that kind of air in it. Balancing the budget would have been easier. I am not claiming that everything does have such air just speculating for the sake of conversation.

Even bigger than that is the allegation that the city engineering department and possibly others failed or refused to act on this information, if those allegations are true. Sometimes I wonder, if this happens on the little things like sidewalks, where are we with the big things?

Anonymous said...

screw u all my grandpas got a great company