To All You Mayoral Candidates: Primer on City of Chicago Contracting

So there was a slow leak outside my office for a couple of weeks. Looked like water main trouble. A few days ago, I noticed that someone dug out the affected area and started a good old-fashioned water main repair project.

Chicago Sewer

Based on my professional and side-project inclinations, I decided to take some pics and drill down into the entities working the job. Given the recent local news that there will soon be a boatload of people running for Mayor, I thought this might be a useful deep-dive into the vagaries of city contracting. Here goes:

Highway Technologies

HT Highway Technologies, Water Main Project, 1802 W. Berteau

This traffic control barricade belongs to Highway Technologies, though I can find no record of them as a city contractor. My assumption is that these are rented or subcontracted out, and if I read enough contracts, I'd find them listed as a supplier. The problem is that they are not listed as a subcontractor and none of the contracts are published in a searchable fashion. Hard to find unique strings of text in a situation like that.

Sumit Construction

Sumit Cont 773-506-9700, Water Main Project, 1802 W. Berteau

Sumit does a signficant amount of work– tens of millions of dollars since 1994. Here's one interesting contract that covers "Residential Concrete and Miscellaneous Asphalt – Area 3".

Residential Concrete and Miscellaneous Asphalt – Area 3

I like to download these documents, read them (well "scan" them), rename them with descriptive file names, and upload them to the Internet with good descriptions of what they are. Reducing overall opacity and increasing personal knowledge one document at a time. Try it!
Highway Safety Corporation
No discussion of Chicago traffic safety contractors would be complete without mentioning Highway Safety Corporation (not to be confused with Highway Safety Corp) a long-term City of Chicago contractor. I looked them up on Citypayments.org, the site maintained by me and Harper Reed, to see what we had. Here's their vendor page.
The only contract I could find for these guys is "#4339: Rental And Placement Of Traffic Control Devices Chicago Department Of Transportation". Here it is:

On page 57 they reference the exact barricade photographed here– it costs $1 per day.

Based on my work with CityPayments.org, I've read a goodly amount of city contracts in my time, but I wouldn't call myself an expert. As far as I can tell, the contract ran from 2/1/04 to 1/31/07, and has a maximum dollar amount of $2,220,341.80. Now that "maximum dollar amount" on the cover page of the contract is fudged a bit– the actual text says, "Dollar Amount of Contract (or maximum compensation if a Term Agreement) (DUR)".

The last page of the contract (the one with a signature over the line marked "Mayor") has a stamp on it that says, "Term Agreement/ Depends Upon Requirements" (that's what "DUR" stands for). "Depends Upon Requirements" seems to be a magic phrase that allows all sorts of important things to get done without having to re-do contracts.

Now, I'm not being a smart-aleck here. Traffic control is incredibly important– it saves lives. And as far as I can tell, based on my experience jetting around the area and watching traffic barricades (a leftover from a stint working with the Chicago Department of Transportation on street obstruction compliance), these guys do a great job providing equipment.

It's just that this looks like an example of a very common phenomenon of city contracting. Once you get a contract to do something, it's really easy to keep doing the work and get paid. Sort of like being elected.

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