Oak Lawn board approves 'stale bids'

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

In an effort to live up to its “Shop Oak Lawn” motto, village trustees at the April 14 board meeting unanimously agreed to waive competitive bidding requirements and split a contract for streetlight bulbs and electrical supplies between the winning bidder and a local company, but not without their usual spirited discussion.

Gerald Chickerillo, the street division manager, told the board that the original bids for streetlight bulbs and electrical supplies were opened on Dec. 1, and Helsel-Jepperson Electrical Inc. of Chicago Heights had the lowest bid of $82,814.48. However, at the following board meeting on Dec. 9, trustees discussed the possibility of awarding the bid to a local company.

Chickerillo said that after consulting with village Attorney Patrick Connelly, the bid contract could be split in two, with the contract for streetlights bulbs going to another bidder, C&L Electrical Supply, 9637 Southwest Highway.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that C&L bid $1,000 less for the bulbs than Helsel-Jepperson, so the village is saving money overall.

“We asked Helsen-Jepperson if they would be so kind as to allow us to break up the bid, and they understood and agreed,” said Deetjen.

“But did this board give you direction to break it up?” asked Trustee Alex Olejniczak. “It turned out in our favor here, but we can’t pick and choose how to follow the rules.”

Olejniczak also questioned why the matter is being brought to the board in April, when the bids were opened four months ago. “If the bidders knew that they could bid on one part of the contract or another [the results might have been different]. We are basically looking at stale bids.”

Trustee Tim Desmond said he was satisfied when Deetjen assured him that the C&L bid was the original one, and had not been altered since the bids were opened on Dec. 1

“We listened and you basically told us to go and talk to the vendors, and we did,” said Deetjen.

Deetjen and Mayor Sandra Bury both said that the board has agreed to waive the competitive bidding rules in the past, mainly to allow municipal vehicles to be purchased from local dealerships at the state’s discounted rate.

“It is customary to do this. It is not out of the realm of what is done,” said Bury.

Finance director Brian Hanigan added that dividing contracts is commonly done with landscaping contracts as well.

But Olejniczak asserted that in those cases, the board made the decision to waive the bidding rules rather than village administrators.

Connelly said that as long as the board had a two-thirds majority, or four votes for the split contract, the waiving of competitive bidding rules was not a problem. The vote ended up being unanimous. “This whole process has clarified the issue,” said Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), thanking Olejniczak for asking the necessary questions.

“I would suggest that in future, with these types of bids that we break it out. Let’s just have it above-board,” said Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th), who did not run for re-election and is stepping down from the board in May.  

Although in the end Olejniczak voted for the agreement, he was not completely satisfied that the rules were followed. “I think we should have rebid the contract,” said Olejniczak.

SUBHEAD – Railroad crossing closing

In other business, Deetjen said that Metra plans to close the railroad crossing at Cicero Avenue and 93rd Street between April 29 and May 7 to install a new, sturdier “preformed, precast material” at the crossing that will not need to be repaired as often.  

Because the tracks are located in the heavily trafficked section of Cicero between 87th and 95th Street that the village was told would be resurfaced, Deetjen said he asked IDOT officials to coordinate the road repaving with the railroad crossing repairs but did not get a satisfactory answer.

“My concern is that with the fiscal state of Illinois, and some of the actions taken by the governor [to cut the budget], I don’t feel Oak Lawn is getting the priority it should,” said Deetjen, urging board members bring up the issue when they visit Springfield for a legislative reception and conference with lawmakers on April 28 and 29.