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Input to be limited at UEP meeting to allow more people to speak

By Staff | Aug 13, 2013

If you plan on speaking at the special meeting to be held Wednesday, Aug. 21, on the Southwest 6 & 7 utilities expansion project, you should be prepared to be brief and to the point.

In anticipation of a huge crowd, the city council on Monday voted 6-2 to limit the time people will have to speak during public input to three minutes each.

Councilmember Lenny Nesta made the motion. He said it is intended to allow everyone to voice their viewpoint.

Not everybody was on board.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz suggested that if citizens get only three minutes, then the city council should as well.

“We should not limit the residents. This is a big burden you’re putting on them. We need to listen whether we agree with them or not,” Mayor John Sullivan said.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail added that it might be wise to wait and see who attends the meeting before deciding on the limit. Nesta held to his position, and the motion passed.

In other business, Margaret Krym gave city council a presentation on the auditing of the Southwest 6 & 7 UEP, specifically the approach, timing and budget for audit agreements.

Krym used a quote from author Ron Risner to get the point of the importance of audits, saying “one of the best ways to control the cost of a construction project is to ensure that the business terms and conditions related to costs favor your organization and not the general contractor.”

To that end, the UEP will have multiple audits during the life of the project, and will include a two-day seminar held by Courtney Thompson & Associates, with Rich Thompson as instructor.

The course content will include; Prevent and detect construction overcharges; more effectively administer construction contracts; Plan a construction control system to receive the most value for the construction dollars; and strengthen controls to reduce the opportunity for fraud.

Also addressed was the need for multiple audits based on availability and assessed risks. Cost, control, change management and financial and budgetary reporting will be reviewed.

It will conclude with a close-out review, which would take a final look at project records, close-out procedures, and contractor’s records.

Krym said the total cost of the audits would be about $90,000, or one-tenth of 1 percent of the total project.

Thompson said the cost is a great investment, since it will eliminate questionable or questioned after-the-fact spending as had happened with previous phases of the UEP.

“We were hired to audit the project on Pine Island Road in 2005 and we saw things that didn’t make sense in the audit,” Thompson said. “We were paying a premium in contractor fees and hourly rates. Most of the suggestions sought in 2005 have been implemented here.”

McGrail agreed, saying the investment could save the city millions.

“Real-time auditing will give Southwest residents assurance the city has provided oversight and real value to their investment,” McGrail said.

Sullivan, who has been opposed to the project, conceded the audit process could be a big money saver.

“We need to use this as a benchmark. We won’t have the problem we’ve had in the past,” Sullivan said. “This will get us as low as we can.”