Northwood is seeking Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the position of city engineer.
Council at a committee of the whole meeting earlier this month was split on whether to renew the contract of the city’s long time engineer, Feller & Finch or look around to see if there are engineers who would charge less for their services.
Councilman Dave Gallaher, who brought up the matter, wondered if the city even needed an engineer.
“We’ve been with the same engineer for quite some time now. I would just like to see us advertise for proposals for service,” said Gallaher. “At the same time, we could see if there’s anything new we would like to look at and ask questions about and get back responses. One of the things I thought of is whether we really need an engineer at the council meetings. It is kind of handy, and from time to time, the mayor may ask the engineer to show up. But going forward, I wonder if we really need to write that into the contract because the administrator is certainly qualified to read a report, and he basically has as much info as the engineer.”
Councilman Dean Edwards agreed.
“I would support going out to bid,” he said.
The city has renewed its contract with Feller & Finch to serve as the city engineer since 2005.
Ken Yant, the city’s finance director, told The Press on Wednesday that the contract with Feller & Finch stipulates that the engineer is paid $100 to attend city council meetings. The engineer also charges the city an hourly fee to provide services that include site plan reviews, building regulations, and for other matters, according to Yant.
“It is an hourly rate based on a fee schedule and the class of engineer. The contract also includes the payment of any of the staff that is used,” he said.
Council President Connie Hughes said at the meeting she wants to keep Feller & Finch because the firm has not raised its rates since 2005. She said she also wants the engineer to continue to attend council meetings.
“I like the idea of the engineer being here, I like that input,” said Hughes. “At least we get it on the record from him. And if we have any questions, on retention ponds or the mall, he’s right here to give us an answer. And I think you’re not going to find too many engineering firms that would hold their fees for seven years, almost eight years at the same rate as they were in 2005. I think a lot of it had to do with the economy, but I think it also has to do with our working relationship with them.”
Still, she said she didn’t “have a problem going out to bid, and see what’s out there.”
Councilman Mike Meyers agreed.
“I would like to see us go out to bid, but I agree with Connie. It’s nice to have an engineer here. He knows everything we’ve done in the city, in all different areas. Go out to bid? Yes, see what the prices are. If they’re close, I think we should stay where we’re at.”
Administrator Bob Anderson wondered if the city could use an engineer for specific projects.
“I don’t know about that idea of doing it on individual projects,” said Hughes. “That kind of worries me a little bit because it seems like it would be a lot of extra time to go that way because if you didn’t like the bid that came in at first, then you’d have to start all over again.”
“Potentially,” said Gallaher, “we might be able to get the best of both worlds by having an engineer on retainer, and possibly saying if the project is over x amount of dollars, we reserve the right to seek bids on a project.”