February 17, 2018

IF YOU CARE HOW YOUR MINNETRISTA TAX DOLLARS ARE SPENT YOU WILL WANT TO ATTEND TUESDAY NIGHT’S MEETING (2/20 at 7pm, council chambers) and let council know that it is time to make sure Minnetrista is getting competitive rates on engineering services. We spend a huge portion of our annual budget on roads and infrastructure projects and it has been 13 years since we’ve officially evaluated competitive rates in this market. My sense is staff and council may need encouragement from constituents to make this happen.

I had asked for a work session to discuss rebidding Minnetrista’s professional services agreement for engineering services at a previous meeting and we agreed to schedule it for a work session. Work sessions are designed to allow for free discussions. I just saw there is now a “Special Presentation” titled “Professional Services Discussion” on our council agenda. Special presentations at regular council meetings are usually one-way (hence the word “presentation”) but this item says it is a discussion so I’m hoping that is what it actually is and not just a staff member giving all the reasons why we should not rebid this contract.

I’ve been contacted by several residents that have given examples of what they consider over-priced projects from our present firm and I have encouraged them to attend this meeting to voice their concerns and also to send their documented concerns to other council members. I have expressed my own concerns regarding rates in the past, specifically charging $75/hr for clerical work. Interestingly subsequent to that meeting our contracted engineering firm changed the title of that category to “office technician” and raised the rate to over $80/hr.

I am not making allegations of unethical behavior by anyone. I am advocating that since there are concerns from residents that those concerns be taken seriously. We have an obligation to assure residents the rates we’re paying for engineering services are competitive. We simply cannot assure that when it has been 13 years since they’ve been evaluated.

I have learned that engineering companies often provide ranges of rates in response to proposals from cities and, depending on who performs the work, the rate could be toward the upper end or the lower, depending on the skill level of the individual. I have advocated, should the city decide to rebid the engineering contract, that Minnetrista require specific rates for specific tasks from all the firms that respond to the bid. Skill levels can be categorized and specific rates identified for each. Unless we do that it will be impossible to compare them. Ranges of rates are unacceptable in my opinion and don’t promote competition.

If you can’t attend let your council members know where you stand on this. Minnetrista City Council email addresses: lwhalen@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; sbruce@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; mmolitor@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pmortenson@ci.minnetrista.mn.us; pthoele@ci.minnetrista.mn.us

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