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.
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:
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 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".
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.