By Jim Allen
The Douglas County Board met for a special meeting on May 5, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. The meeting was called to execute an agreement for federal funding for the major bridge project over the Hays Road over the Kaskaskia River and for review of bids for the reconstruction of roads in the Industrial Wind Complex in Newman and Murdock townships.
The second order of business, the approval of a construction contract for road repairs of the “Harvest Ridge Wind Farm” was not completed. Advertisement for bids for this project was out on April 8, 2021. After the project was bid, an addendum was sent out to bidders on 4-15-21. After the addendum was sent, a pre-bid conference was held on 4-19-21. On 4-22-21, a second addendum was sent. The bid opening was on 4-28-21.
Six contractors that were pre-qualified, and would have been prime contractors for the job, took bid documents for the job. However, the only bid for the work was given by Beniach Construction Company Inc and Earl Walker Company Inc as a joint venture. Detailed amounts for labor and materials was given for each section of the contract. However, the bid was $12,430,896.24 which was more than 5 percent over the revised estimate of $7,787,917.27. Since there was no other bidder, the bid was not acceptable. If a competing bid had been received, a contract could have been awarded. The bid was acceptable within the original Engineers Estimate, but was higher than the revised estimate.
This project is being rebid with an opening date of May 18, 2021. If at least two bids are not received, the parties will likely move to Article 3(F) of the Road Use Agreement and engage a “Neutral Engineer” to develop an Engineers Estimate that reflects the actual estimated cost to repair the road damage to the wind farm roads. The “Neutral Engineers” would include, but not be limited to: Andrews Engineering of Springfield, IL, Kaskaskia Engineering Group LLC of Champaign, IL, and WHKS & CO. of Springfield, IL. As of now, EDPR has full responsibility to maintain the roadways.
In the open session of the meeting, a question was asked as to whether the poor construction work on the roads in the initial phase contributed to the present cost of reconstruction. In some areas the roads were widened to 26 feet from an original width of 12 feet. Also, as mentioned in previous articles, excess rock was applied which then moved over time into the ditches. This makes the material cleaned from the ditches unusable for adjoining fields. Therefore, instead of placing the soil back into the fields, it must be loaded and sent to other locations for fill or recycling. This may have had an effect on the changes in the estimates. I think that to compare the costs for the road recovery on this project to the costs on other projects is not correct.
The original Engineers Estimate was in the $13,000,000 range with a large contingency.
EDPR did not feel the amount was accurate and in the last three weeks, after Hanson Professional Services (engineering firm for EDPR) and Chastain & Associates (engineering company for Douglas County) met, the amount was revised. The original engineers estimate of $13,000,000, which was noted to have a high contingency, was reduced to approximately $9,000,000, then further reduced to $7,787,917.27. This amounts to a 40 percent reduction in the original estimate. I do note that as the addendum were created, the meetings between Chastain and Hansen that lowered the Engineers Estimate were taking place. Perhaps this is normal.
Writer’s Note: I have contacted Chastain and Associates regarding the changes but at this time have not received a reply. I have also contacted Chris Brooks of EDPR, but again have received no reply. I am not disappointed as this was what I expected. I would like to know the reason for such a major change in the Engineers Estimate. The contractor who submitted the bid submitted an itemized list of costs. I do not see how an “estimate” can refute this. The only question that remains is how long the roads in Newman and Murdock Townships will remain in poor condition.
As a final note, as of 5-5-21, Newman Township has not received maintenance funds from EDPR that were due 4-1-21. The total amount of these funds would be approximately $36,000.