Wilmette, News

Wilmette trustees OK $2.9 million in road fixes that should cover portions of 14 streets

An additional road in Wilmette could be improved this summer after the Village trustees approved an alternate bid for the upcoming 2024 road projects.

Trustees unanimously approved a $2.9 million contract with J.A. Johnson Paving Company, of Arlington Heights, at the Village Board’s regular meeting Tuesday, April 9.

The approved bid includes proposed work for 15th Street from Isabella Street to Wilmette Avenue, which was excluded from the original staff-recommended $2.5 million bid, which included 13 streets.

The Village will reportedly pull from its financial reserves to cover the higher bid.

Village Engineer Dan Manis told trustees that this year’s road program is focused on fixing roads that were rated as being in “serious” or worse conditions during a 2022 assessment of all Village streets. After this year’s proposed street projects, he said there will not be anymore “serious”-rated streets in Wilmette.

According to Village documents, 15th Street from Isabella to Wilmette Avenue is rated as “very poor.”

Improvements included in Wilmette’s 2024 road program

Manis added that the cost of the 2024 road projects will be $11.75 per square foot of pavement surface, marking a 13.3 percent increase from 2023 pricing and a 45.6 percent increase than the four-year average.

“The sharp increase in 2023 pricing was primarily attributed to extraordinarily high demand in construction services,” he said. “This year, we attribute the increase in pricing (to) an increase in materials, primarily concrete Ready Mix at nearly 40 percent.”

In response to a question from Trustee Kathy Dodd, Manis said 15th Street fixes were not initially recommended for financial reasons, as he tried to remain on budget.

“This bid was set up based more on past practice before we were drawing down reserves, where the bid alternate was typically used as a way to get to the budget if pricing came down below budget,” he said.

Village Manager Mike Braiman added that another thought was that the money could be used for other projects.

“We’re doing really well in our road program,” he said. “We’re exceeding our goals, and we know we have problems in a lot of other areas where we need to catch up — alleys as an example — where we may want to consider spending more reserves on alleys, given how far behind we are and the level of complaints we have compared to the road program.”

But he said there weren’t any issues with pursuing the larger bid.

“It’s not the wrong decision to award the alternate bid, because it’s work we’re going to have to do eventually, and it will cost us a little bit more the next year, but we just may want to balance that with some of our other needs, and that was our perspective,” Braiman said.

During discussions, trustees indicated that they would rather approve the alternate bid now and revisit it during the board’s next meeting on April 24.

“Then we can have a more thorough discussion on April 24 when we have the alley bids in, as well as our brick overlay bids in, and we could then scale the alternate back,” Braiman said.

Trustee Gina Kennedy was one of the trustees who preferred to focus on 15th Street now, especially since construction costs are not expected to decrease.

“We’re not committing to anything. We’re not committing to an expenditure,” she said. “We do have significant reserves. We may get lucky with the next round of bidding. I doubt it, but you never know.”

Trustee Justin Sheperd agreed.

“If (Option 1) was just all that was put in front of us, we would have been fine,” he said. “But we might as well save the flexibility and discuss it some more.”

Manis added that the additional street will not create extra work for the Village if the project moves forward.

“It’s not much extra work at all if we award the larger amount,” he said. “It’s a very easy process for us.” 

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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