WILLOW PARK —
Willow Park’s practice for at least the past couple of years of completing multiple non-competitive-bid road repair projects is not typical of area cities, the Democrat has found during a survey of four other Parker County municipalities.
Rather than spending the majority of the annual road repair budget on a larger single project that is advertised for competitive bid - as three cities of similar size reported doing - Willow Park officials say about eight or nine small projects have been completed during the past two years by the same contractor for a total of around $250,000.
The cities of Hudson Oaks, Aledo and Springtown say they’ve found that it generally makes more sense and is more cost effective for their cities to complete larger projects (over $50,000) or to package together smaller road repair projects and advertise for bids or enter an interlocal agreement with the county. The City of Weatherford reported that it completes most road maintenance projects in-house but does occasionally use a contractor for smaller projects under certain circumstances.
Of the four cities surveyed, only Weatherford and Aledo reported using a contractor for a road repair project costing less than $50,000 this year. Aledo had one and Weatherford had two. Both reported spending a total of around $22,000 or less on contractor projects that did not go through the formal bid process (required by law for projects over $50,000).
Recent Willow Park projects
Willow Park city council member Bernard Suchocki, elected in May, raised the issue on Nov. 13 of how and why Mayor Richard Neverdousky OK’d spending about $184,000, the majority of the Willow Park’s street repair budget this fiscal year, on six projects this fall without the knowledge or approval of the city council.
“The public works director came to me and we had discussed doing Ranch House Road,” Neverdousky told the council during the meeting. “Ranch House Road, quite frankly, had become dangerous. It was discussed by previous councils.”
Originally the contractor came up with a price of $49,000, Neverdousky said. “It was under the $50,000 limit that I can approve. And we had three bids to do the work. The money was budgeted and I liked the price.”
“The additional work, each time he finished something, he said, well, I can continue to give you that price and the spot price of which was better than any other quote that we had received,” Neverdousky said. “I approved additional work as it went on.”
“I don’t know that you had the power to do that to begin with,” Suchocki told the mayor. “I think the way that these bid races were drawn up separately I think avoids the question here. Having multiple invoices for less than $50,000, you talk about the same contractor out at the same time with the same equipment doing the same work. I think it’s a way to evade the $50,000 limit.”
The city’s practice is to obtain three proposals for projects under $50,000, according to Willow Park City Administrator Candice Scott.
Neverdousky told the Democrat that Public Works Director Lance Petty contacted four contractors before deciding to go with Brazos Paving for repair to Ranch House Road. After the first part of Ranch House Road was completed, the company offered to continue the same spot price and Petty asked whether they could match the price, Neverdousky said. However, the other contractors were reportedly unable to.
Three separate places on Ranch House Road were repaired with asphalt, the mayor said.
One of the bridges on Ranch House Road, located south of the bridge replaced earlier this year, was full of potholes and presented a danger to travelers, according to Neverdousky. Also, some places on lower Ranch House were collapsing,
A portion of Sam Bass Road, where it connects with Ranch House, was in bad shape and was also repaired, he said.
A portion of a roadway off of Ranch House Road north of Canyon Court was also collapsing and was done, according to Neverdousky.
Camelot Circle was also repaired as it had come apart and was basically gravel, Neverdousky said.
Because the city budgeted $250,000, significantly more than they typically do, they had the money to do repairs to four of the roads in the worst condition, according to Neverdousky.
A portion of the street repair money goes to other things, as well, such as if the city needs to patch the road after a water main break, Neverdousky said.
The practice of doing major road repairs in a piecemeal fashion appears to date back prior to Neverdousky’s time as mayor.
Neverdousky said Kingsgate and Queensway were done in asphalt for a total cost of about $68,000 last year. Those were done separately and by the same contractor, according to Neverdousky. “He’s given us good prices and guarantees his work with a year’s warranty on everything.”
Scott told the Democrat Tuesday that the city had three road repair projects under $50,000 completed by a contractor last year, including repairs to Kingsgate, Camelot Court and Queensway.
She was unable to provide the Democrat information on the cost or details of those projects and whether the city used a contractor for similar smaller projects during previous years.
She referred the Democrat to Public Works Director Lance Petty for more information, including specific information on the six projects awarded to Brazos Paving this fiscal year. However, Petty was reported to be out of the office last week and did not respond by deadline to emailed questions or a voicemail left on his cell phone.
The last time the city used a competitive bid process to complete a road repair project was when they went out for bids on Stagecoach and Ranch House, according to Scott.
Around 2009 or 2010, the city did a $5.2 million bond issue that enabled them to do Stagecoach Trail and lower Ranch House Road in concrete, Neverdousky said.
When they spent the bond money, they didn’t include the engineering on those roads, which is why the city had a big overrun in engineering costs in 2011, Neverdousky said.
They’d like to do more roadways in concrete but it’s expensive, he said.
Even doing them in asphalt, “there’s a lot of roads that still need to be done,” Neverdousky said.
The Democrat has submitted a formal public information request to the city for documents pertaining to the six road repair projects this year, as well as any similar projects the past five years. However, the Democrat had not received a response to that request by deadline.
Asked if there was any concern about the city doing a majority of road repairs as smaller projects, Neverdousky said, “At some point, one of the things that has to happen, there has to be some trust in the public works director.”
The public works director spends his entire working day focusing on the roads, water system and sewer system, Neverdousky said.
“He has a feel for what needs to be done, at some point, it has to be left up to him and not micro-managed,” Neverdousky said.
If and where the remaining money budgeted this year for road repairs will be spent hasn’t been decided.
“We’ll see in the springtime,” Neverdousky said.