Mayor's Corner

Nov 04

[ARCHIVED] Plain Dealer Article Response - GPD Group

The original item was published from August 21, 2022 9:47 AM to November 4, 2022 1:39 PM

On the occasion of a cleveland.com/Plain Dealer article appearing this weekend relating to Beachwood’s handling of engineering services and contracts with GPD Group, we wish to set the record straight. More specifically, we wish to disabuse all residents of the misguided misinformation resulting from an agenda by City Council member Mike Burkons to bend facts and besmirch the city administration. 

Before the facts are explored here, consider the hypocrisy of the following fact, quoted from the published article: 

City Councilman Mike Burkons, who VOTED FOR GPD GROUP’S MOST RECENT CONTRACT RENEWAL, told cleveland.com that awarding the work without any kind of bidding process was “completely illegal.” 

Beyond the contradiction above, he is simply wrong.  

Council is authorized to establish further procedures for the selection of design professionals and construction managers (Ordinance 1998-59). The awarding of work to GPD followed the letter of the law whereby a specific ordinance (2021-158) was created to cover engineering expenses. According to this ordinance that Beachwood’s City Council passed, bidding on each project, specific to engineering, is not required. Tangentially, laws are not ignored and there is no “self-awarding” of contracts.  

To the contrary, city officials in the Police, Building, Public Works and Community Services Departments propose projects which require engineered design drawings. Once the city determines the projects it wishes to pursue due to urgency and importance (we only replace roads when necessary and with reason), we ask GPD to submit a proposal including an estimated cost for design fees. Costs relating to those fees are based on the hourly rates GPD provided and were approved by City Council for engineering projects annually. Those proposals are reviewed, sometimes modified, then approved by the administration before engineering design work begins.   

Many surrounding cities follow an identical pattern, relying on a particular engineering firm to handle the bulk of their projects due to that firm’s familiarity with the city’s infrastructure including, for example, soil composition, sewers, waterlines, roadway surfaces and bases. Such knowledge implies less guess work, no learning curve and overall cost savings.   

These relationships are predicated on trust, public accountability and proven superior outcomes. GPD has been in northeast Ohio since 1961 and has grown to employ over 600 professionals – 400 in northeast Ohio. It offers a comprehensive and diverse range of services, delivering unmatched experience in municipal infrastructure improvements. Conversely, if we hired a single engineer, we would still need to pay for supplemental engineering services because one person does not have expertise in every area (the hip surgeon doesn’t perform cardiac surgery).  

Having said that, I will be reviewing our annual professional service contract for engineering services and making a recommendation to City Council. As stated in the article, I am not opposed to the possibility of an in-house engineer. I see value in a position that manages our engineering services contracts and provides oversight of all engineering projects.        

Fact: Plenty of projects completed in Beachwood follow a bidding process.  

Fact: Engineering contracts are different and fall into a separate category, intentionally carved out by law, that adheres to a quality, not cost, standard. The importance lies with who will do the best job based on many factors. The least expensive is not the measuring stick. Similarly, many areas of professional service follow this type of rubric such as with medical and legal work. Shopping strictly for the least expensive hip replacement is not a patient’s north star.  

Fact: Our current and previous Beachwood law directors have addressed the topic of our awarding of contracts and found us to be in complete compliance with our laws. 

Fact: We pass legislation after careful consideration, and, according to the Ohio Revised Code, if any new law overlaps with an old law, the newest law is followed. Do you want to follow laws passed in 1922? Do conditions and circumstances change? Do you want city government to be mindful of addressing current needs? We fully believe we are serving the community’s best interests by how we operate and pass laws.  

Fact: Mr. Burkons has been raising issues about GPD’s contract for some time. He has reached out to a number of agencies over the years, including the State Auditor’s Office, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District with his claims. Despite these attempts, Beachwood has not received any finding, from any of these agencies or any others he may have reached out to, indicating that there is any wrongdoing or improper handling of our engineering services.     

People can disagree. Ambiguity can be addressed. Laws and practices can even change. But nothing illegal has transpired in Beachwood, and the work by GPD has been outstanding while being fairly and comparably priced and delivered as promised and on schedule.  

We absolutely get what we pay for, and we follow all of our own ordinances by intention and design.