Highway chief 'must reject' Naperville road services deal
Naperville Township Highway Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak says he agrees with government consolidation when it's financially feasible, but the city of Naperville's pitch to take over services his road district provides doesn't fit the bill.
The city is offering to provide road maintenance, landscaping and snow plowing for 49.3 lane miles of unincorporated township roads beginning as soon as July 1 in a deal it says could save $700,000 a year from the road district's recent spending of $1.8 million. Savings then could be passed to taxpayers through a lower road district tax levy.
But Wojtasiak said the city's higher labor costs and use of subcontractors make the proposal unsustainable.
Despite set costs proposed for each of the four full years and one partial year in the agreement, he said he doubts the city could maintain the township roads to residents' satisfaction without spending more money than he does. His fiscal 2017 budget is proposed at $2.6 million, but roughly $1 million is for paving, bringing his operating budget to about $1.6 million.
"The city has not proven it can do the work for less and save the taxpayers money in the long term," Wojtasiak wrote in a letter he intends to distribute at the township's meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, during which the road district's budget is set to be discussed.
"I must, at the present time, reject the proposal as written," he said.
Under the proposal, the city would provide brush collection, emerald ash borer treatment, forestry, general road maintenance, leaf collection, mosquito abatement, mowing and herbicide, storm sewer maintenance and winter operations. An administrative employee would be included, and two categories of capital services can be added to cover street maintenance improvements and sidewalk repair.
The city would charge the road district $527,640 in the agreement's partial year, running July 1 through March 31, 2017. The following full years, including the two capital categories, would cost $1.05 million, $1.07 million, $1.09 million and $1.21 million, respectively.
While Wojtasiak raises cost concerns, the city says its expenses shouldn't concern him. The yearly cost in the agreement changed only when Wojtasiak asked the city to increase street sweeping, brush pickup and leaf collection services to match what unincorporated township residents currently receive. Past that, the city says it will hold firm to contract costs -- even if a snowy winter requires extra plowing contractors and creates cost overruns.
But subcontractors remain one of Wojtasiak's concerns.
"It would not be acceptable for the city to take over township roads if it merely intends to subcontract out the work," Wojtasiak wrote in the letter. "Issues of costs, responsiveness and accountability are raised by contracting out the work."
Wojtasiak says the city spends $97 an hour when it needs to hire an outside snowplow driver, but City Manager Doug Krieger said the price actually is $90.28.
"We work with subcontractors because it's the most efficient, cost effective way to clear snow," Krieger said.
Wojtasiak continues to question the city's labor costs and the price it has quoted to conduct each aspect of the proposed work. In his letter prepared for the budget hearing, he lists costs that add up to the city's $1.05 million price for the agreement's first full year, showing the road district can do the work cheaper.
For example, his list says the city would spend $88,811 on general roadway services, while the road district would spend $55,000.
But the costs he shows for the road district to conduct the work add up to roughly $150,000, or about 10 percent of the district's operating budget, so Krieger said something is missing.
Wojtasiak said that's because several services his crews provide are not included in the city's offer, such as cleaning drains, maintaining vehicles and equipment, picking up storm damage and repairing curbs. Plus, he based all his costs on a 40-hour workweek and didn't include any overtime for snow removal.
"I just tried to match whatever they put in their proposal," Wojtasiak said.
Comparing line-item costs seems counterproductive, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said, when the bottom line is clear: The road district's operating budget is about $1.6 million, and the city is offering to do the same work for roughly $1.1 million.
Chirico said he remains hopeful the two governments can come to an agreement. But if that becomes impossible, he said there are other options to ensuring services are provided in the most efficient manner for roughly 866 homes in the unincorporated portion of the township.
"We may need to discuss our annexation policy," Chirico said. "If we can't get these things worked out through an intergovernmental agreement for the residents, we still have the obligation to protect them."
The city traditionally has taken a passive approach to annexation, allowing property owners to join Naperville's municipal limits if they choose -- and pay a price. But Chirico said the council could consider pursuing involuntary annexation of township properties, which could turn all of the streets under the township road district's jurisdiction into city streets.
Discussions of the road services proposal likely will continue Tuesday, when the township meets to go over Wojtasiak's budget. The township's budget year began April 1, but trustees granted a continuance on approving the road district's $2.8 million spending plan in hopes resolution could be reached on the city's proposal.
"I was very clear that I expected results," township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra said.
Once the city amended its offer to increase street sweeping, brush pickups and leaf collection, Ossyra said she thought an agreement was imminent. The fact no deal has been reached is causing her to question Wojtasiak's motives.
"I don't know what the real intent was going into that process," she said, "whether it was to reach an agreement or an attempt to find ways not to reach an agreement."