Jefferson Engineering Department dealing with project costs | News, Sports, Jobs

By Linda Harris

Personal editor

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County Engineering Department is going to have to find a way to manage “supply chain issues and rapidly rising prices” this does not imply changing their cost estimate after the opening of tenders.

Assistant Attorney Shawn Blake told commissioners about Ohio’s revised code “specifically provides for the issuing of tenders for road improvement projects by Boards of County Commissioners.” If the county commission decides to proceed with the project, he said they “shall do so in accordance with the provisions … (requiring) a call for tenders. No improvement contract can be awarded at a price more than 10% higher than the estimated cost.

“No contract can be awarded at a price greater than 10% of the estimate”, he wrote. “Furthermore, in the event of all bids being rejected, the contracting authority may either re-publish, using the original estimate, or modify the estimate and proceed with advertising in the manner provided by the State.”

At their June 30 meeting, the commissioners decided to seek Blake’s blessing before awarding the contract to resurfacing OPWC County Road 46 after construction engineer Eric Hilty told them they had followed the example of the Ohio Department of Transportation and “corrected” their estimate — increasing it by about $11,500 — so they can stay within the 10% threshold mandated by state code. The lowest bid, submitted by Shelley & Sands, was $222,338, more than 10% higher than the engineer’s initial estimate of $199,748.

Hilty had stated that the ODOT considered the “corrected engineering quote” be an accepted standard now in specific circumstances, due to supply chain issues and soaring prices.

“That answers that question,” Commissioner Tom Graham said after Blake’s opinion was read into the record.

After the commissioners voted to reject the offers, Hilty told them that the engineering department would have to determine how to proceed.

“At this point, we need to have a discussion about it,” he said. “We are sort of lost in time this summer. There is a chance that we will keep it until next year, we will discuss it.

Commissioner Dave Maple highlighted the method used by ODOT, “our prosecutor says not to do it”, and Graham suggested it might be useful to know “which in the revised Ohio code allows them to do that.”

“ODOT follows a slightly different law when it comes to their auctions”, said Hilly. “I could work with the county engineer and (Blake) to figure out what’s best for us on our estimate. We do not intend for this to become standard practice, but if there is flexibility in our estimate beyond an addendum to our tender documents, we want to have that option at times like these when we have rapid price changes.

The commissioners, meanwhile, were told that the architect did not have the necessary documents ready, so the fire evacuation plan was delayed for a week.

“They didn’t have the papers (ready)”, he said. “We were going to start this Friday, but the company that’s going to scratch the paint has started another small job, so now we’re looking at Thursday.”

He said the courthouse parking lot will be blocked the day before construction begins and only a limited number of spaces will be available.

The commissioners also voted to use US bailout funds — income replacement dollars — to pay for fire escape repairs as well as third-floor courtroom renovations.

“Both of these projects, I think, are good uses of ARPA money,” said Graham.

“I would be okay with that” said Maple. “We talked about bricks and mortar, infrastructure, sustainable things with that money…it definitely satisfies those thoughts.”

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