Press Editorial: City needs straighteningIt started when a state contractors’ organization questioned the city of Dickinson for awarding projects to Two Rivers Construction while the company was not properly licensed.
It started when a state contractors’ organization questioned the city of Dickinson for awarding projects to Two Rivers Construction while the company was not properly licensed.
The Associated General Contractors of North Dakota are also asking the city about its procedure when bidding — or not bidding — out projects over $20,000. Membership Services Director Mark Dougherty says a city staff person told him there’s an exception to the rule that any project over $20,000 must be bid out. But Dougherty couldn’t find the code. The city attorney says it’s all a misunderstanding and that Dickinson has followed code. The mayor says the city will deal with the matter when it is clarified. Question after question — get it clarified.
If an entity like the AGC questions the code and no one seems quite sure where to find the code, it’s time to revisit it and write an ordinance that everyone understands.
When a city hires a contractor to do work in excess of $2,000, North Dakota Century Code requires they have a contractor’s license, according to counsel for Forum Communications Co., parent company of The Dickinson Press.
Further investigation into the city’s handling of contracts, its filing system when it comes to some projects, city codes and failure to take projects before city commissioners leaves The Press, and likely community, with even more questions.
With the thousands spent on projects, contractors and city employees need to know when and how to bid them.
Twenty grand certainly isn’t too much to take out bids on. That amount could make or break small business owners.
To the mayor’s credit, he says if there is a doubt, put it out for bid. All projects and bids must be open for review.
And the city doesn’t always have to take the low bidder, but if it doesn’t, make sure to explain the reason.
The Associated General Contractors also requested the city send copies of all contracts, commission meeting minutes where projects were approved and the written reports required by city ordinance. The city attorney sent a letter dated May 17 to the AGC, citing four projects awarded to Two Rivers during the unlicensed time.
It makes no sense that after a Press reporter questioned why the city’s letter included only four projects, the attorney drafted another letter to the AGC on a Saturday morning which included additional projects performed by Two Rivers — eight more! How in the world did the city miss eight of 12 projects!
City commissioners can not be expected to know every detail of every contract and construction project Dickinson is involved with but the city hires people to stay on top of this.
A paid city administrator and attorney should be reviewing all projects paid for by the city. Full-time paid department heads should also know when and how to maintain city records and a contract should be necessary in all cases. And not hand-written and scribbled on a piece of paper like some have been.
Your average citizen would not have someone work on their home for $1,000 without a contract and the city is working without contracts on projects into the tens of thousand of dollars.
Somehow intertwined in this same debacle is a soggy story. Two Rivers Construction is in charge of putting a new roof on the National Guard Armory. The city did not take out bids for this project. Two Rivers Construction was “accidently” without a license from March 1, 2009 until April 23 of this year. Check credentials. It is the contractor’s job to oversee its subcontractors and it is the city’s job to make sure the jobs are being completed.
The project costs about $90,000 (the price tag on a pretty nice house for some of us). The Guard is paying $20,000, a federal grant $40K and the rest is coming from the city contingency fund.
Water was pouring into the Armory. There were more than 30 buckets sitting around the place. This is a place meant to be a shelter in cases of bad weather, natural disasters and other emergencies. It is also a polling place and more.
About 100 people called it the safe zone during a tornado last summer. If one struck today, where should they go, what should they do?
This is outrages. A National Guard soldier had to pick up his keyboard, turn it upside down and dump the water out before working on his computer. Not only were they working in unsuitable conditions, but would they be able to respond to emergencies as needed?
On April 30, a Dickinson official said the project should be done in two weeks. That was not the case. Could this have been avoided if the city followed its rules?
There are reasons a project may not be finished in a timely matter but these obstacles should have been thought of before beginning roof “repairs.” And no payments should be sent to a contractor before a project is complete.
Why was the contractor without a license, the city without clear codes or staff that knows the codes and why are community pocketbooks suffering for it?
— The Dickinson Press Editorial Board meets weekly to discuss issues of importance to the community.