Biting one’s own tail

Biting one's own tail
The mayor and some members of the Vermillion City Council, displaying a bit of bravado over an expenditure of the Dakota Street reconstruction project, appeared to be a lot like snakes hunting down their next victims, only to find that the prey they had just bitten into was their own tails.

City Engineer Bill Welk appeared before the council April 17, and noted that the street project was about to start.

Due to the size of the project – ts total estimated cost is somewhere in the range of $1.5 million – there is not enough city staff time to do the inspection and staking on the project.

So the city bid the work out to Sayre Associates, a private engineering firm. Contracts were presented at an estimated cost of $67,000 for participating and $29,000 for non-participating.

The $67,000 will be paid from the state and STIP funds and the $29,000 will be paid from the sewer and water utilities.

Aldermen Roger Jeck and Jere Chapman were outspoken about the expenditure. They're both businessmen, and we can see how it probably doesn't make sense to them to hire an outside firm to do this work.

"We have to pay $96,000 to make sure they (the contractors) construct the street properly," Chapman said. "I'm in the wrong business, mayor. We're going to spend $100,000 to make sure the contract people do the job right. Is this normal?"

Welk assured him it was.

"I also have a question about spending $96,000 for about four months of work," Mayor Dan Christopherson said, noting that the project should be completed by this fall. "Couldn't we hire our own engineer on staff for about half of that for the entire year, and have him available to do all of these?"

"If you hire somebody on staff, you have to pay them from the general fund, which you don't have enough money in," Welk replied. "If you hire a consultant, you've got second penny (sales tax) money that you can use (to pay them).

"I'd love to have a bigger staff for doing things in-house," Welk added, "but we can't afford it."

Should the city truly be serious about saving Vermillion citizens' money, they should be looking at making some changes during the budget process that starts early this summer.

It appears they need to shift some second penny sales tax funds into the general fund so we can add some staff to the city engineer's department.

Either that, or be prepared to take the blame for the added costs of hiring private engineering firms to do the work.

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