Chicago Heights tree removal is facing another delay after the city council rejected all bids from companies hoping to handle the project, and Mayor David Gonzalez is none too happy about it.
Despite several years without a major tree removal and trimming program, the council rejected the bids under the advisement of the consultant company Robinson Engineering, who said the bids all exceeded the $100,000 allocated from motor fuel tax money.
"One of the contractors submitted the apparent low bid, like $97,000," said Joe Nordman, Project Manager at Robinson Engineering. "After we reviewed it, there was a rather significant mathematical error and it took a line item from $12,000 to 126,000, which jumped it way up."
Gonzalez stopped Nordman to note that money should not be the issue, especially since he and Treasurer Jim Dee have allocated enough money to get rid of every dead tree, as long as the total number of trees is less than 1,000. Nordman said there are about 600 trees and 150 stumps slated for removal.
"People have been waiting on a tree list for years and years and years," Gonzalez said. "We, along with the treasurer, have been beating ourselves on how to find this financing, which we’ve done through bond refinancing. We’ve done it through whatever we needed to do because it seemed like that was what the whole problem was, was that we didn’t have enough money. Now I sit here with this treasurer and we‘ve found the money now, and now what I’m finding is a bunch of delays."
Nordman also noted that the smaller companies that bid had to add additional costs for more staffing, to which Gonzalez responded, "If these little companies can’t do it, then we’ve got to find a big company that’s going to do it."
Gonzalez was also against spreading the tree removal out, hoping to get it all done next year.
"I don’t think we want to start doing this over two or three years," Gonzalez said. "I think that if we’ve allocated the money and we’ve got the money, let’s not do it over a two- or three-year period if we can do it all come spring and have it done by the end of summer."
Chief of Staff Lisa Aprati said the tree removal could start and end even sooner, depending on how the next bidding period goes.
“The good thing about this project is, as long as the weather holds out, we’ll be able to actually address this during the wintertime too," Aprati said. "So it’s something that can be done. We can actually get it done as early as this year, depending on how the bid process works.”
Nordman said the project involves four main parts: tree and stump removal, stump removal, tree trimming and an hourly price in case the street department needs assistance during a storm. Nordman suggested focusing solely on tree and stump removal and having the company with the winning bid work on a monthly basis.
“I still like giving them so many a month to do,” Nordman said. “That way we can keep them going so they don’t fall off the job. That’s what happens with these bigger companies. They’ll have a big job to do and they’ll be in Joliet or Chicago and don’t come back for a while.”
Corportation Counsel TJ Somer said it is entirely possible to meet the mayor's goal of end-of-summer completion, particularly if the city is willing to spend the extra dollars.
"When they did look at the response of bids, the big granddaddy companies were higher on the bid level than the small ones," Somer said. "It is possible to get it all done at one fell swoop. We sat in a meeting together with the big guys and talked to them, but it seemed like a significant price difference."
Nordman said he will move forward for another bidding period, anticipating the funding and presenting the project as one big package for the chosen company to tackle.