At Thursday’s regular city council meeting, Aledo officials expressed frustrations with $173,514.84 owed to the state in construction costs stemming from an overage with the Safe Routes to School 2015-16 project with the Texas Department of Transportation.
“We were made aware of this early last summer when [TxDOT] started doing the audit on this project. This project was led by the state and the bid was higher than the estimate, so the state of Texas says that we owe $173,514.84,” Aledo City Administrator Bill Funderburk said. “When this was let (opened for bids), we don’t know what the city knew at that time and there were also three changes during that period of time, but the contract does read that if a project goes over the cap, the local government, city of Aledo, is responsible for that overage.”
The project was to fund construction of the sidewalks along the west side of Farm-to-Market Road 5 and Farm-to-Market Road 1187 from McAnally Intermediate School to Vandagriff Elementary School, and the estimate for construction came from engineering firm Freese and Nichols.
“The first two grant projects had a total of $863,963 and it came in at $985,856, which was 14 percent higher than the money we had from the grant,” Stephen James, with Freese and Nichols North Texas transportation, said. “There were two contracts, one was in 2014 and that was administered by the North Texas Council of Governments and then there was a separate one in 2015 and that was administered by TxDOT, but the rules for both of them were basically the same — if construction costs come in higher than the amount of construction money in the contract, the city pays 100 percent of the difference. Anything under that is cost-sharing — TxDOT pays 80 percent, the city pays 20 percent.”
But James said that TxDOT asked them to hold off bidding the 2014 contract and thought by putting the two together, the prices would be better.
“As it turned out, with the exception of one bid item, it worked out pretty close to our estimate,” James said. “There was one bid item in the low-bidders estimate that was about five times higher than everybody else’s, but because he was the low bidder, I guess they figured they had to accept it. So that’s where 60 percent of the overage came from.”
James said TxDOT was in complete control of the project and approved three change orders that came in totaling $47,332. James said one change order was for erosion control and another was for backfill that was put between the edge of FM 1187 and the sidewalk.
“So what this basically says is that TxDOT has an open checkbook from the city,” Aledo Mayor Kit Marshall said. “I remember when we had those conversations that it was originally going to be two separate [contracts] and then they asked us to allow them to put the two together because it was going to come out better for the city, so what it seems like is that we’re being penalized because we agreed to allow them to do that on the premise that it would be better and it actually isn’t, by a lot.”
Aledo City Attorney Betsy Elam said she was happy to look over the original documents for the city to see where the issue is.
The city is allowed 90 days before payment is due and the council made the decision to delay taking action on the item.