Monday, January 30, 2012

Flint Emergency Manager Considers Sale of City Sewer and Water System (UPDATED)

The Flint Journal is reporting (here) that Michael Brown, the City of Flint's Emergency Manager, is considering the sale of Flint's water and sewer system. Shaky finances and the need to raise cash are part of the reason Brown is considering "all options."

The sale of Flint's water and sewer system would complicate plans by the Karegnondi Water Authority, which has urged Flint to break ties with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. KWA officials recently have been lobbying Flint's Emergency Manager to join the new authority.

No word about who might be interested in buying Flint's water and sewer system or who will foot the bill for the $61.5 million worth of upgrades to Flint's water treatment plant that will be required, according to Rowe Engineering (here and here); KWA would only be furnishing Flint with raw water, not the finished water currently supplied by DWSD.

Want more information about the Karegnondi Water Authority?
Update (2/3): The Flint Journal reports (here) that the Flint Emergency Manager is also considering interim use of the Flint River until the new KWA pipeline is completed. Still no word as to how Flint would finance the necessary upgrades to its water treatment plant.

For more about DWSD Update, click here

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tarolyn Buckles to Serve as Technical Advisor to Detroit Board of Water Commissioners

On January 25, 2012, the Board of Water Commissioners hired Tarolyn Buckles to serve as the Board's Technical Advisor.  The Board approved a one-year, $100,000 contract with Ms. Buckles.
Tarolyn Buckles - Technical Advisor
Ms. Buckles is President and CEO of Onyx Enterprise, Inc., a firm providing engineering consulting, project management, and construction management services.  She previously served as Project Manager for METCO Services, and Project Engineer and Diversity Manager for Arcadis. Ms. Buckles earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Structural Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1993.

Ms. Buckles joins Butler Benton, who was hired as the Board's Financial Advisor in October, 2011.  Ms. Buckles and Mr. Benton will assist the Board in reviewing rate setting, capital projects and other financial and operational matters. 

Staff positions were created under the February 11, 2011 Order, and formalized under Article VII of the Board's Amended By-Laws. A third staff position, not yet filled, will advise the Board on legal matters.

For more about DWSD Update, click here.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Detroit Water Board Adopts Suspension and Debarment Policy, Clarifies Earlier Actions (UPDATED)

The Detroit Board of Water Commissioners today approved a resolution rescinding ab initio the suspension resolution it adopted on December 21, 2011 and amended its January 11, 2012 resolution, which lifted suspensions as to 5 contractors, to cover all contractors originally suspended on December 21, 2011. The Board then took up and adopted a formal Suspension and Debarment Policy.

DWSD's new Suspension and Debarment Policy starts by declaring that the Department will only do business with responsible vendors (contractors). The policy then spells out the criteria for determining who is a responsible contractor and establishes notice and hearing procedures (due process) for the Water Board to follow before it suspends or debars a contractor.

The new Suspension and Debarment Policy(*) addresses criticism of the Board's earlier actions, which suspended contractors without prior notice and without providing the affected contractors with an opportunity to review and respond to charges against them. (Comment: These are due process requirements that should have been followed in the first instance. The Board took the right steps today by stopping, backing up, and putting things in the right order.)  

With the new policy in hand, Chairperson James Fausone announced: (1) that the Board would conduct "Responsible Bidder Hearings" for (some of) the previously suspended contractors (I'll update this post when I confirm the exact list of names), (2) that the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee would consist of Commissioners Thrower, Kenoyer and Williams), and (3) that "Responsible Bidder Hearings" would be conducted on the following dates: 
  • Friday, February 10, 2012 (p.m.)
  • Wednesday, February 15, 2012 (a.m.)
Hearings will be subject to the Open Meetings Act.

Then, there will be a Special Water Board Meeting on February 15, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. to consider the Hearing Committee's findings and recommendations. Some of the same contractors named in the previous resolutions could find themselves suspended again.

Due perhaps to the planned consideration and adoption of the Suspension and Debarment Policy(**), the Chairperson announced at the start of today's Board Meeting that resolutions to approve 3 design-build and construction contracts were being pulled from the Agenda -- PC-787 (Belt Filter Presses), PC-783 (Underground Electrical Ductbank Repair), and DWS-862A (Department-Wide Security Upgrades).  

The Board did approve a contract with Metco Services for CS-1498 (Aeration System Improvements) and a one-year contract with Onyx Enterprises, Inc. (Tarolyn Buckles) to provide technical advisory services to the Water Board. Ms. Buckles replaces Jim Ridgway, who apparently could not come to terms with the Board on a contract.

* Copies of the new DWSD Suspension and Debarment Policy have been posted here. were not immediately available, pending the addition of a small change requested by one of the Commissioners, but it should be posted on the Department's home page within a few days.

** There was no reason given publicly for pulling these contracts from the Agenda, and only 1 of the 3 contractors, Lakeshore Engineering Services, is caught up in the on-again, off-again suspension saga. The Chairperson gave some indication at the end of today's meeting, however, that these 3 contracts would return to the Agenda at the Regular Water Board Meeting on February 22, 2012. 

For more information about DWSD Update, click here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lakeshore Engineering Submits Low Bid on City of Ann Arbor WWTP Project (UPDATED)

Last Wednesday, January 11, 2012, Lakeshore Engineering Services submitted the low bid to the City of Ann Arbor for a project known as “WWTP Facilities (Renovations) Phase II.”
  1. Lakeshore Engineering - - - $83,302,048
  2. Granger Construction - - - - $89,990,000
  3. Walsh Construction - - - - - $92,929,000*
  4. Walbridge Aldinger - - - - - -$95,380,441
  5. Colasanti Construction - - - $99,990,000
  6. Barton Malow - - - - - - - -  $102,884,000
Renovations to the Ann Arbor WWTP include demolition and reconstruction of the existing West Plant structures and facilities and the rehabilitation of the East Plant.

Construction includes, but is not limited to: primary clarifiers, primary building, aeration tanks, blower building, central electrical building, ferric buildings, secondary clarifiers, new administration building, renovation of existing maintenance building, environmental abatement, new storm water system, removal of the existing 4800 V electrical distribution system and replacement with a new 13.2 KV electrical distribution system, and the rehabilitation of the east primary clarifiers, east aeration tanks, east blower building (including new blowers) and east secondary clarifiers.

Work also includes depressurizing an artesian groundwater condition, groundwater dewatering, geotechnical instrumentation, construction sequencing, earth retention systems, concrete pier foundations, concrete and gate repairs, earthen embankment improvements, and utility relocation and replacement.

(Comment: We're taking a slight detour by reporting on this project, but the Ann Arbor WWTP is a significant project and most of the bidders are regulars on DWSD projects. The Project is scheduled to take 5 years to complete. Sharp-eyed observers will also note the photo used in the title block for DWSD Update is in fact a photo of the Ann Arbor WWTP. (Hat-tip: NS) I tried using several photos of DWSD's wastewater treatment plant, but all of them ended up obscuring the title text. So, I confess to taking a bit of editorial license. If you have a good photo from 9300 W. Jefferson, please send it along and I'll give it another try.)

Additional Information:
*Update (2/6): is reporting (here) that WWTP Staff and the City's Consulting Engineer, Malcolm Pirnie, will recommend tonight to the City Council that Walsh Construction be awarded the contract for this project for $92,929,000. A copy of the Resolution is here

For more about DWSD Update, click here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Detroit Biosolids Contract to be Re-Opened to allow Changes, New Proposers

During the Director's Oral Report at the January 11, 2012 Special Water Board Meeting, DWSD Director Sue McCormick reported that the Department has decided to reopen the submittal process for the biosolids contract (PC-781) for a period of 45 days, beginning January 18, 2012. 

The Director indicated that DWSD would allow new proposals, corrections to existing proposals, and permit teams to change or substitute their lineup based on recent decisions of the Water Board.

The Department will receive new and revised proposals by March 5, 2012. Existing teams will be contacted by the Department.  Look for additional details on DWSD's procurement page (here).

The Director also reported that DWSD will expand the evaluation committee to include representative from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. These representatives, who were not disclosed, will be required to sign confidentiality agreements and not have any connection to any of the proposing teams.  

For more about DWSD Update, click here.     

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Water Board Lifts Contractor Suspensions, then Authorizes Lawsuit Against Most of the Contractors (UPDATED)

At a Special Board Meeting on January 11, 2012, the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners voted to lift the suspension resolution it passed just three weeks ago on 5 of the 13 cited contractors. The following contractors are no longer suspended, but the resolution included the caveat -- "pending further action of the Board"
  • Lakeshore Engineering Services, Inc.
  • Inland Waters Pollution Control, Inc.
  • DLZ Laboratories, Inc., 
  • D'Agostini & Sons, Inc.,  and 
  • Walbridge Aldinger Company, Inc. 
The Water Board then (a) approved an extension of its attorney's legal services contract, and (b) authorized Miller Canfield to intervene in the federal lawsuit initiated by the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District in July, 2011 (the "15 Mile Sewer Repair" case)  and  file a lawsuit against approximately 17 Defendants, including 4 of the 5 contractors whose suspensions were just lifted (D'Agostini & Sons, Inc. is excluded).  

The Board also directed its Legal Committee to work with Miller Canfield to draft a (new) suspension policy for presentation to the Board at its next regular meeting on January 25, 2012.

Then the Board voted to accept (for consideration) a bid protest filed by Walbridge Aldinger, on Contract PC-786, which the Board had approved for award to Walsh Construction on December 21, 2011. The Board voted to conduct a public hearing to determine whether Walbridge Aldinger is a "responsible bidder."  

(Does this mean the Board might rescind its award to Walsh if it finds Walbridge to be a responsible bidder? And what about the policy of not contracting with persons you're suing? Why conduct such a hearing if you've already directed your legal counsel to sue Walbridge and the other contractors for racketeering and civil conspiracy?

(Confused? You're not alone!)

Additional Resources:
For more about DWSD Update, click here


Monday, January 9, 2012

Water Board Schedules Special Meeting - January 11, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.

The Detroit Board of Water Commissioners has scheduled a Special Meeting for Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.  There is no published Agenda yet for this meeting, but* Given the significant decisions taken at the last Special Meeting on December 21, 2011, attendance on Wednesday is highly recommended.

Comment: If I were to speculate, I think the Board might use this occasion to adopt the administrative rules to be followed in the suspension appeals. The Board's suspension resolution adopted on December 21, 2011 mentions an ad hoc committee to review appeals, but did not set forth any procedure or rules to be followed. At least one contractor has already filed a lawsuit contesting the Board's decision. If the Board plans to argue that the suspended contractors have to first exhaust their administrative remedies before contesting the matter in court, a standard defense under these circumstances, they'd better articulate those remedies soon. The Hearing on L. D'Agostini & Son's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. before the Hon. John Corbett O'Meara.  

*Update (1/10): The Agenda for the January 11, 2012 Special Meeting was published earlier today (here). 

For more about DWSD Update, click here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Suspended Contractor Files Lawsuit Challenging Detroit Water Board's Suspension Policy (UPDATED)

Earlier today, L. D'Agostini & Sons, one of the 13 contractors suspended for 3 years by the Detroit Water Board on December 21, 2011, filed a federal lawsuit contesting the Board's decision. 

The lawsuit alleges that the Water Board's actions violated the contractor's due process rights and violated its rights under 42 USC 1983, a federal civil rights statute.  

In addition, L. D'Agostini & Sons (LDS) has also filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Preliminary Injunction. The contractor requests that the Court (1) enjoin the City of Detroit from enforcing the debarment order; and (2) order that the debarment as to LDS be expunged. No hearing date has been set on this motion.*

2012-01-05.L D'Agostini v City of Detroit - Complaint                                                                                                   

Additional Related Articles:
For more about DWSD Update, click here

*Update (1/9) (1/10) (1/19): The Hearing on L. D'Agostini & Son's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction has been re-scheduled scheduled for Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. January 18, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. February 2, 2012 at 1:45 p.m. before the Hon. John Corbett O'Meara.