The Fort Wayne City Council in Regular Session

The Fort Wayne City Council met in Committee Session last evening, but was overshadowed in the media by the following Special Session for the first of three budget hearings. Here’s what happened last night during the Committee Session.  You may download an audio recording of the session here:

mp3 audio file of the meeting Committee Session Recording

S-08-09-12 (starts at 1:58)
AN ORDINANCE certifying and approving the need for the services of a consultant to provide professional Preliminary Design Engineering Services for the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge Replacement Project. Total cost will be in excess of $100,000

The Administration asked for this ordinance to be held for two weeks which was done.

S-08-09-14 (starts at 1:58)
AN ORDINANCE approving the awarding of ITB #2835-annual requirements for the purchase of bulk road salt by the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, by and through its Department of Purchasing and North American Salt Company for the Street Department.
Total cost will be 2008 – $117,500; 2009 – $360,000

WANE-15 last night barely mentioned the City Council’s meeting, let along anything besides the budget hearing.  And even at that, they didn’t mention anything about the proposed cuts.  Their cameraman was there for a few minutes to capture some footage, then left.

When WANE-15 did mention the salt approval, they played up the fact that $360,000 was going to be the cost for road salt next year. Of course, I cannot dramatize the statement as they did on their newscast last night, but the bigger picture is that the City actually saved about $4 per ton when compared with the State’s price to be paid for the same product. This amounts to a potential savings of approximately $488,000 next year, based on projected usage of 12,000 tons for 2009.

Last year, there was constant talk in the media regarding potential salt shortages. One of the problems some municipalities are facing at this time is that salt is now at a premium, if available at all. The City has locked in the price of $55.96 per ton for up to 18,000 tons for the 2009 calendar year. But even though the City is saving money at a lower cost, this cost per ton is still a 25% increase over last year ($44 per ton paid last year to Cargill). This contract is for the City, but it was a joint bid which included Southwest Allen County Schools and Allen County. Prices for salt are currently in the $125 to $130 per ton range.

In May of this year, Jim Howard, Directory of Purchasing for the City of Fort Wayne, learned that the State was preparing to bid it’s salt contracts. When he discovered this, he wanted to do better than the State. He marshaled his forces and they put the bid out right after the State’s release. However, they added a twist – a reverse internet auction. He described it as an “Ebay style auction” in which the bidders could see each other and their bids. Cargill was a qualified bidder, however, they did not place a bid during the process. This left Morton and North American Salt which was the winner. Mr. Howard felt Cargill had put all it’s eggs into the State Bid, which they won, and had nothing left over for the City.

The contract guarantees the City delivery up to 18,000 tons of salt at the $55.96 per ton price. The City has projected their 2009 usage to be 12,000 tons. For every day past a delivery date that the City does not take delivery of the salt, $200 in damages will be paid per day to the City. If something drastic were to happen that the City would need to take delivery of salt from another provider, North American Salt will pay the City the difference in price and fix the problems. This covers the City in the even that there are quality problems. In addition, the City has the right to refuse delivery if there are quality issues. In this event, North American Salt would have to take the rejected quantity away and redeliver within 48 hours. Non-compliance with this would result in a penalty of $100 per day.

Councilwoman Liz Brown (At Large-R) asked about other alternatives to salt which would be environmentally safer and possibly cheaper. Brad Baumgartner with the Streets Department, responded that they had looked at beet juice, which is actually more expensive. Plus, to reconfigured the City’s salt trucks would be an added expense.

S-08-09-13 (starts at 12:19)
AN ORDINANCE approving Section 205 Feasibility Cost Share Study for the Flood Control Program – Fairfield Ditch Area between US Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in connection with the Board of Stormwater Management.
Total cost of $329,510; Total Study Costs Projection: $659,020 – City’s Share is 50% or less

Bob Kennedy, Director of Public Works and Dave Ross, City Engineer presented this ordinance to the Council. Councilman Mitch Harper (4th-R) asked that the bill be held until he and the neighborhood association in the area could be briefed about the proposal. Ross responded that they had attended the last association meeting and spoke at that point. Harper countered that there hadn’t been any details shared about what was coming out in this meeting. Kennedy responded that this wasn’t the final process, but rather a feasibility study of options and just the first step. Promises were made that the neighborhood would be greatly involved in the entire process.

Harper further stated that the money spent on the study would be enough to complete substantial buy-outs and that he felt the neighborhood really needed to be involved before any further progress was attempted. Ross countered that the funds to be used for this study wouldn’t be eligible for buyouts, so that really isn’t an option. Kennedy also stated that this process began the week after the flooding in 2003 ended. They had asked the Corps of Engineers to return to complete a study of what could prove to be a complex project. This is part of the Federal process which can be extremely slow.

Councilman Tim Pape (5th-D) jumped in and stated the project has already moved at a slow pace and needs to be moved along. Councilman John Shoaff (At Large-D) added that he felt the amount of money was a lot for just a feasibility study. Ross did have a list prepared by the Corps of activities and associated costs of what the study would include.

Councilwoman Karen Goldner (2nd-D) added:

Not with respect to flood control, but with respect to other projects that the Utilities or Public Works have done, my observation from my previous life as just a neighborhood person is that the City pays a consultant to do, kind of community outreach work and other than I’m sure it makes it easier for them to do the mailings than for the City to do the mailings, my observation is that all the actual productive discussion is with the city staff. I would just urge you when you’re divvying up all this work, to not pay a consultant to do what you guys are going to end up coming in and doing anyway.

The bill was held for one week to allow Council to grasp a better understanding of what the study would include and how the money would be used.

Salt Provider’s websites:
Cargill
Morton
North American Salt

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