An engineering bureaucracy is bogging down the Reunion Parkway bridge over I-55, District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter complained last week. 

Supervisors awarded Neel-Schaffer the contract for environmental work on the project in a 4-1 vote after an initial attempt to award the firm a full design contract failed last Monday.

Baxter asked County Engineer Dan Gaillet if they had put any timeframes or damages in the contract to motivate whichever engineering firm was chosen to move swiftly. 

Baxter said in the private sector he receives a cost and timeframe in advance of awarding a contract, but in the public sector, they select an engineer and then negotiate time and cost. 

“I’m confused about the process,” he said. 

Gaillet said it’s against the Engineers Code of Ethics to give cost or timeframe in advance of a project and they wouldn’t want to select a firm based on being a low bidder. 

“You don’t want your low bidder designing a structure,” he said. “By our ethics, we have to make sure the engineers are, at first, capable.”

Gaillet said they then move into negotiations and discuss timeframes and project costs. 

“Time and money is part of the negotiation,” he said. 

“What’s to motivate these firms to get going, move faster on the projects,” Baxter asked. 

Gaillet said the firm’s reputation was the first thing that stands out, as well as getting paid. He said if they became unsatisfied with the pace of the project they could change engineers. 

“The Engineers Code of Ethics is regulating how a county can bid out a project,” Baxter said. “We’re supposed to represent the taxpayers. It’s our money. If we want a timeframe and a schedule and an estimate up front, we should get it right?”

Gaillet said that comes during negotiations. 

District 4 Supervisor David Bishop initially offered a motion to award Neel-Schaffer a contract for environmental and design work. District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen seconded the motion. 

District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin made a substitute motion to award the environmental portion only because their term would be up soon and a new board should have say in the future construction of the road. 

Griffin’s motion passed 4-1, with Bishop voting against. Steen initially voted against the motion but later changed his vote to approve.