Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority divides contracts [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review :: ]
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 14--The days of one engineering firm overseeing all capital projects at Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority ended Wednesday, when its board of directors voted to divide the duties among three companies.
Robert Christian, PWSA's director of engineering, said engineering companies viewed the authority as a closed shop because it has contracted since at least 2002 with Chester Engineers based in Moon.
Chester was in charge of overseeing expenditures for all authority construction and its $157 million, five-year capital plan.
"When you have several contractors, they can actually bid against each other on a particular job and reduce the price," said board member Paul Leger, Pittsburgh's finance director.
Authority board members approved three-year contracts totaling about $4.7 million with the three firms. PWSA paid Chester Engineers about $4.4 million last year, Christian said.
Engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald of New Jersey, which has offices in the South Side, will receive $2.2 million for capital budget management. URS Corp. of San Francisco and Chester will be paid $1.3 million and $1.2 million, respectively, for construction management services.
Phone calls to Chester and URS Corp. were not returned. Stephen Polen, manager of Hatch Mott MacDonald's office in Pittsburgh, declined comment.
"In any business model, if you rely on one supplier, you can't be absolutely sure that you're getting the best deal," said Deb Gross of Highland Park, a PWSA board member and member of Pittsburgh City Council. "You have to at least give others a chance to see what they can do."
Christian said the authority awarded the contracts based on criteria including price, experience, qualifications, office location and amount of minority and female business participation.
Companies bidding on budget management had to provide a plan for training PWSA employees to take over that duty in three years, he said.
Christian said authority officials have been meeting with engineering and construction firms since last year to encourage them to bid on PWSA jobs.
"We want to break up our work and get more firms interested in bidding on our work," he said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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