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City Council Approves Stormwater Contract; Alderman Leaves the Meeting After Heated Exchange

Contention reigns when it comes to fees and procedures.

Elmhurst City Council now has a contract for more than $840,000 with two companies to collect data and create a plan for dealing with stormwater issues. But before approving the project Tuesday, alderman debated hourly rates for engineers and other workers, questioned and defended the efforts of the Public Works and Building Committee and disputed the presentation of last-minute information.

While the vote was unanimous among board members present, it was taken without 1st Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf, who left the meeting after a heated exchange with Mayor Pete DiCianni. Gutenkauf presented information that she said indicated the city would be paying too much for engineers, surveyors and other contracted workers. She questioned the work of the Public Works and Building Committee in negotiating the contract.

 The contract charges Christopher Burke Engineering and RJN Group with developing a comprehensive plan for dealing with infrastructure issues as part of city's response to last summer's severe floods. The project will include analyzing the city's sanitary sewer system, creating a comprehensive map of the areas that flooded last summer, looking at additional stormwater storage alternatives and reviewing stormwater requirements for single-family homes. The Public Works Committee has been working since early in the year to negotiate the contract with the two firms.

 Gutenkauf produced a contract between the Burke firm and the city of Des Plaines that listed lower hourly rates than those in the Elmhurst contract. She estimated that Elmhust was overpaying by about $54,000.

 “I am deeply, deeply disappointed,” she said. “I don't see any evidence that we understand what is fair and appropriate.”

 Christopher Burke told the council that the difference in fees was due to the complexity of the project, and that the rates Gutenkauf was referring to were those used by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The Des Plaines project, he said, was for a traffic median and totaled $15,000.

 City Manager Tom Borchert said staff had compared the fees Burke and RJN were requesting with other engineering fees paid by the city and found them to be comparable.

Gutenkauf also questioned a footnote to Christopher Burke's hourly rate as principal engineer that referred to a rate he charged the city for a previous contract. This prompted Burke to drop his rate from $240 to $200 per hour, even though Borchert explained to the council that the $200 rate was discounted for one particular project.

Third Ward Alderman and Public Works committee member Michael Bram, who two weeks ago did not sign off on the report but subsequently did add his signature, told the council that he still was not happy with the costs associated with the project, and that he believed the city was paying 10 to 20 percent more than it should for engineering services. But, he added, he wanted to see the project go forward, so he voted to approve the contract.

Kathleen Sullivan, who has attended Public Works committee meetings as a member of the city's Stormwater Task Force, told the council before the vote that she was confident that city staff would properly manage all aspects of the project.

 A few alderman expressed disappointment that Gutenkauf's information was given to them that night.

 “I'm uncomfortable having numbers thrown at me,” said 4th Ward Alderman Steve Hipskind. Second Ward Alderman Pat Shea, a member of the Public Works committee, reminded the council that many of the tests that were part of the project need to be completed during the spring rainy season.

Gutenkauf made a motion to renegotiate the fees, which failed. After this vote, DiCianni apologized to Burke for the introduction of the Des Plaines project into the meeting, an action that offended Gutenkauf. She gathered her papers and left the dais.

After the meeting, Gutenkauf explained that she believed the city should have started with the IDOT rates and negotiated from there, but she did not see any evidence that the committee did this.

 In a follow-up email, Gutenkauf defended the timing of her presentation.

 “This was hardly a last minute 'revelation.' I received the committee report on Thursday night like everyone else did and presented my argument at the appropriate point—the council meeting. The only reason it seemed last minute is because the committee chose to present BOTH their report and the resolution approving the contract at the same council meeting, which effectively removed any chance for any council member to discuss and digest any new information or concerns,” Gutenkauf wrote.

Bill Angel February 23, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Follow the money Elmhurst reidents. Buke has a conflict of interest in that he also represents DuPage County. You mean to tell me of all the engineers in the Chicago metro area, Burke is the only qualified conusulting engineer. Why is Elmhurst paying full price for the services many other communiites payed significatly less. Carol Stream, Wheaton, DuPage County, DesPlains. Council meetings are for asking questions, whether new or not, not for rubber stamping for the giggly guy. Come on now $840,000 to draw maps and review old reports. Paleeez.
Flooded Out on Pine February 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM
I just watched the video of the meeting last night and listened to all of the bickering. I'm a little confused though. Aldermen Gutenkauf and Bram seemed to be arguing against the contract, but then both voted for it. The vote was 13-0 in favor of the contract. The vote to pass the resolution was 12-0 as Gutenkauf left after the 13-0 vote. Is there a problem with the contract? I'm just happy they are moving forward. 9 feet of water in one's house is not fun, the sooner the City moves forward on some fixes, the sooner I, and many of my neighbors, will feel better.
2008 YHS Graduate February 23, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Basket case
Michael Hassan February 23, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Alderman Gutenkauf was not against the project. She was trying to find out why the same engineers, laborers, CAD guys, etc. were working in DesPlaines for $X dollars per hour while The same firm was charging Elmhurst $X+15-20% more per hour for the same people with the exact same skill sets. The Des Plaines contract is 1 month old ~ can't claim inflation. This project is almost $1 Million dollars. It is costing more than $50,000 more than it should. Don't we want alderman that will be fighting for our tax dollars instead of just giving them away???? Further... it was not an 11th hour "stunt" as her detractors have decried. She got the information in her packet last Thursday. The Mayor should have never scheduled the discussion and the vote on the same night ~ unless he was trying to jam something thru...
BS Detector February 23, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Mr. Hassan - aren't you Alderman Gutenkauf's husband? Shouldn't you have started your post with "My wife"? So, there were all of these alleged problems, yet she still voted for the report? Interesting. Watch out for those black helicopters Michael...
Michael Hassan February 23, 2011 at 11:18 PM
Yes, I most certainly am. However, I'm also a tax payer. I don't always agree with my wife politically. However, this is such a no-brainer ~ I don't know how any one (without an agenda) could not be for getting the best possible deal for our tax dollars. Let's say local municipalities were in desperate need of a giant box of Cheerios. The general store sold DesPlaines the box of Cheerios for $100.00. When Elmhurst showed up to purchase its exact same box of Cheerios the cost was jacked up to $150.00. Is this right? NO ! Why didn't the chairman of that committee make sure were are getting the most for our dollars? My wife wouldn't have had to do this research if he had. One last thought... Mr./Ms. BS Detector at least I have the courage to say who I am. Maybe a moniker change to"BS Spreader" would be appropriate... gotta run the black ops copters are landing on my roof to wisk me away to my conspiracy theory support group...
Mike Worrell February 23, 2011 at 11:28 PM
I have a habit of not regarding very highly any public comments left by people with fictional names. Mr. Hassan, whatever the validity of his comments is in light of his associations, did identify himself plainly... with his name. Slamming him while hiding behind an alias is rather spineless and repulsive. It would change the tone of these feedback threads immediately if people were required to use their real names.
Karen Chadra (Editor) February 24, 2011 at 12:15 AM
I couldn't agree more. Our terms of service require that everyone display their first and last name, but we can't enforce it because they just come back with another phony name. Patch is still trying to work on this issue. When people use fake names, they tend to say things they would be embarrassed to say if people knew who they were. We strive for an open, respectful dialog.
Kathleen Sullivan February 24, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Thanks so much for the coverage. I actually said that I was comforted by the reassurances of the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Public Works Director, and Public Works Committee that they and City staff would actively manage the contract and not have unnecessary spending. I do appreciate that when writing an article, sometimes, in the interest of brevity, the message changes. And, everyone knows I'll be an active participant in observing.
Karen Chadra (Editor) February 24, 2011 at 12:48 AM
Thanks for the clarification, Kathleen.
Elizabeth Ambrogi February 25, 2011 at 12:18 AM
Bill, half of the people on City Council have a “conflict of interest” --- it’s pathetic! It is every alderman’s job to investigate and ask questions, but unfortunately very few of them have that conviction. Diane is one of few who have consistently done her job in the most thorough and professional way to save money for the city and for us tax-payers. I know because I am a Ward 1 resident and I (as well as many of my neighbors) have called on her many times for help, feedback, and guidance. She is truly a shining example of what our government should be. Mr. Hassan, I love your response to that gossipy bully above who seems to think that you have zero say because you are married to Diane. By the way, my name is Elizabeth Ambrogi and I live on Oak Street….and no relation to Diane or any city workers.
Jim Mastrino February 25, 2011 at 05:14 PM
First of all I am not Alderman Gutenkauf's husband. My name is Jim Mastrino, My wife and I have been a resident of our city for nearly 40 years. So now you know more about me than I and everyone else reading your commentary knows about you. I have no vested interest in this discussion other than I am a First Ward resident, a resident of this city, and someone, like so many others that want to witness true leadership and responsibility in all levels of government. It is very sad that we do not see enough of this. Yet, the other night at our City's Council Meeting we did indeed see one responsible Alderwomen stand up, like she has done in the past, as our voice. She very succinctly and simply identified the "possibility" the work done by the committee needed more review. She also suggested the price of the project was overstated, and there was no need to "rush" the decision through. I am very confused as to why the rest of OUR representatives would not embrace the facts that she, and she only presented, with some concern for the amount of money this is going to ultimately cost everyone. Mr., Mrs., or Ms., your comments are inflammatory and do not add anything to the this conversation. Instead of focusing on what "value" alderwoman Gutenkauf brought to the council meeting you, instead, attempt to make something out of the comments made by her husband. I bet you did not even witness this particular council meeting.
Bill Angel February 25, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Ms. Ambrogi, It appears that Peter and his "frat boys" have total disregard for the limited taxpayer dollars available. What is more troubling is that Peter has issues with strong minded and smart inquiry focused women. City Council meetings is the forum to ask questions and hopefully get straight answers. You should know Peter runs a "shadow" government via telephone calling (prior to meetings) to the the Council members who he "bought off" via Chairman or Vice-Chairman committee assignemnts. The REASON things come as a surprise to Peter in meetings is because those council memebers who Peter does not call prior to meetings are in the dark come meeting day as decisons are made in advance of the actual meeting. I think Alderman Gutenkauf had every right to question why Peter is protecting and advocating the overpaying of the consultant fees. Peter knows we know he oversold his capabilites to the public which clearly shows.
Joe O'Malley February 26, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Hey, I thought that Mayor "Pete" was good pals with the Senior Senator from IL. Remember the local paper coverage of that meeting were all the local political empty suits were sitting in the room and listening intently to what big empty suit Dickie had to say? I thought he would he was going to help solve all the flooding problems with Federal Govt money. Here lets take a crack at the problems: 1. Analyzing the city's sanitary sewer system; Solution yes it's antiquated, is there money to fix it? NO! 2. Creating a comprehensive map of the areas that flooded last summer: ( I love that buzz word comprehensive it sounds so administrative) Solution: Have the residents submit pictures of their flooded basements and include their addresses.- There's your comprehensive map! 3. Looking at additional storm water storage alternatives and reviewing storm water requirements for single-family homes. Solution: Pump any excess storm water into the basement of City Hall. Nope, can't do that! The IL EPA forbids mixing storm water with sewage. There you just received your $840,000 worth of consultation.
Bill Angel February 26, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Peter has outsourced every major decision to some phony task force because he offers no specific or credible solutions as promised campaigning. Pass the balony please.
Edward Kline January 06, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I find it humorous for the above comment from James Mastrino to contain this quote : "like so many others that want to witness true leadership and responsibility in all levels of government." His son is a police officer in Oakbrook Terrace with a criminal past that's all over the Internet. Here's the info - www.oakbrookterrace.info Keep your focus on raising your kid Jim instead of trying to sound like you know anything at all about "leadership" you hypocrite.
MJ Rogers January 07, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Thanks for your post Mr. Kline. I moved here last spring and am now In a position to follow these local matters more closely. This alderman Ms. Gutenfaul stormed out of a meeting after 'heated exchange' in this meeting in 2011. Then I read in the fall 2012 she yelled 'shut up' to another elected official at a public meeting. If she ever gets elected as mayor she will tick so many people off in that role that nothing will ever get done. As a woman and as a new person in town I so wanted to have a woman candidate that would excite, but this one....... No way.
Elle M January 17, 2013 at 11:04 PM
i agree elle
Elle M February 27, 2013 at 01:54 PM
When Ms. Gutenakauf talked with me she did not have the answer to either of my questions. She had what I think is a "canned" comment and then she quickly moved on. I did not see her as leader in that exchange when I met her. elle
Elizabeth Ambrogi February 27, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Dear Ms. MJ Rogers, I respect your opinion, but I must tell you that to me, the battles which Ms. (Diane) Gutenkauf has had to face over the past few years in City Hall seem rather overwhelming. I am a bit familiar with some of these challenges, for I supported Diane in her race for the first ward alderwoman and I followed local news pretty closely. Given you noted that you are a new resident to Elmhurst, I would kindly recommend that you take some time to learn a bit more on the sometimes unpleasant politics of our city. Also I must add that if you are in fact in support of allowing women to be a more intricate part of our government, you should really attend some of our city hall meetings so that you may get a first-hand (not via a biased neighbor or local newspaper) look at how little respect and consideration our female representatives get. Not sure what transpired in the incident where Diane supposedly said "shut up" to another elected official, but I would speculate that maybe this was just an isolated moment of weakness or frustration due to the disregard of her participation. Possibly...??? Best regards to you, and good luck to Diane on her mayoral campaign. Elizabeth Ambrogi 257 Oak Street

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