The first freeze of the looming winter came four days after the Platteville Common Council discussed the removal of what always accompanies cold in Wisconsin — snow.
The discussion — the bid wasn’t up for action — lasted longer than would be expected Oct. 12 because the lower of two snow removal bids didn’t match the city’s Request for Proposal, while the higher of the two bids did. Aldermen were split as to whether the city should reject both bids or the lower of the two since it didn’t meet the bid specifications, or accept the lower of the two bids.
The city hires snow removal companies to remove snow on sidewalks of houses whose owners don’t remove snow before the city’s 36-hour deadline, or have accumulations of snow or ice on their sidewalks. The city then bills the property owner for the snow removal.
The city RFP specified that the contractor start when directed by the city Public Works Department, and that snow removal take place Monday through Friday, with removal allowed Saturday to finish work started on Friday. The RFP also states that if snow starts while the contractor is working, the contractor should stop working immediately and not resume until directed by the city.
According to city staff, snow removal contractors have not removed snow on Sundays for many years.
See SNOW page 9A υ
The lower of the two bids came from Southwest Lawncare, 18.9 cents per square foot, with a minimum charge of $38.75 for snow removal. The bid is lower than last year’s bid of 20 cents per square foot with a minimum $40 charge for snow, and 25 cents per square foot with a minimum $50 charge for ice or packed snow.
However, Southwest Lawncare proposed to remove snow seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of weekdays, starting 36 hours after snow ends, instead of at city direction. The bid also eliminated the stipulation to stop work if snow restarts during removal.
City attorney Brian McGraw said Southwest “bid on a project that we did not ask a bid on. … If that’s what you want the bid on, then we should change the bidding specifications and rebid it.”
The higher of the two bids, Four Seasons Landscaping, bid $20 per square foot with a $40 minimum charge, without changes to the bid specifications.
At-large Ald. Mike Denn maintained that the city should enforce a 36-hour requirement because city ordinances require snow removal within 36 hours of a snowfall. He suggested making changes to the bid specifications and rebidding it.
“Why do we shovel the sidewalk?” said Denn. “It’s for safety, not to make it look good. … Following our ordinance is the most important thing.”
“We have what the rule says, and we try to temper rules to apply to the situation, so we have staff applying discretion to make the rule work,” said McGraw.
“We live in a town where many people leave Thursday night and don’t come back until Monday morning, and they’ll get a bill from the city, and we’ll get complaints,” said District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen, who favored sticking with the original RFP. “I think we still want to maintain the fact we’re open Monday through Friday.”
“Then you better rewrite” the ordinance, said Denn. “The ordinance says 36 hours. It’s a strict safety feature.”
“I’m not sure I’m confident having a contractor who goes out when he thinks it’s stopped snowing,” said Common Council President Eileen Nickels.
Denn also held that snow should be removed every day of the week if the contractor is willing to remove snow on any day. “Why are we dictating they can’t plow on Sunday?” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”
At-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson favored going with Four Seasons’ bid because “Southwest was given the exact same specifications and didn’t respond to them.”
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian and at-large Ald. Tom Nall opposed rebidding.