‘Bait and switch’

Council members Council members miffed by surprise sidewalk charges

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
City Council members called foul on more than $10,000 in unexpected sidewalk bills.
“I think the quote has to justify the invoice – you can’t just add $10,000,” said Council member Scott Reynolds at the May 28 City Council meeting.
City Council voted unanimously to table the funding request for $30,216.47 to contractor Italia Construction Inc. of Washington Township, Mich.
Council voted in July 2018 to approve $20,000 to replace 216 broken or damaged sidewalk slabs in the city, and the work was completed last month.
The final bill included $1,204.35 more for replacement of four-inch-thick sidewalk slabs; and $1,812.12 more for replacement of six-inch-thick slabs across driveways.
The list of slabs needing repair had grown from July 2018, when an inventory was completed, to April 2019, said City Manager Jonathan Smith.
“There’s definitely a trend over time, more and more tree roots are eating into the sidewalks,” Smith said.
The bill also included $2,300 for “mobilization,” $1,800 for “topsoil and seed,” and $3,100 for “traffic control.”
“We are told these are customary charges. We just didn’t know about them,” Smith said. “When we brought the approval request to council, we did not know about these other expenses. The quote we got was just about the square footage.”
“If they’re customary, why didn’t they let us know about them up front,” Kneisc asked.
Smith said because the city piggybacked on the township’s sidewalk contract, they didn’t receive an appraisal or estimate that would show these other charges.
“It’s a lot – we could have put in topsoil and seed,” said Council member Sharron Catallo.
The council approved the proposal in July 2018 at $6.25 per square foot for four-inch-thick slabs and $7.50 per square foot for six-inch slabs.
The May 16, 2019, invoice actually charged $5.73 per square foot for four-inch slabs and $6.33 per square foot for six inchers.
The mobilization fee is the cost of getting the crews together and transporting them to the work site, Smith said.
Traffic control refers to arrow-sign trucks and flag wavers, which were needed to direct traffic on M-15 and Holcomb, he said.
Independence Township recently selected Italia and signed a three-year agreement after receiving multiple quotes for safety path and sidewalk work. The city received the same price.
The city piggybacked on the township to get the work at a competitive rate, Smith said.
“The price came in low,” he said. “We didn’t understand these other charges would be coming through.”
“I thought the point of piggy backing was, you don’t have these mobilization charges,” Kneisc said.
“To me this is almost like a bait and switch. I would pay them the $6.25 and $7.50 and call it done.”
“If they didn’t state anything for these three items then that’s what the payment should include back to them,” Reynolds said.
Kneisc supported tabling so the city manager could talk to township officials about what they were quoted and paid.
“I’d be happy just to have the information,” said Council member Sue Wylie. “We learned a lesson.”
The additional money would come from the Parking Kiosk Fund, $15,216.47; and $15,000 from the city budget.