CDM Smith $750K Contract Extension Delayed

A $748,106 contract extension with CDM Smith Inc. for continued work as part of Ann Arbor’s footing drain disconnection (FDD) program has been postponed by the city council until June 2, 2014. City council action to postpone the contract extension came at its May 5, 2014 meeting.

In 2012, the city’s program to disconnect footing drains from the sanitary sewer system was suspended by the council in some areas of the city. Specifically, it was suspended in the Glen Leven and Morehead (Lansdowne neighborhood) areas. The program was allowed to continue in other geographic areas and as part of the city’s developer offset mitigation (DOM) program. The DOM requires owners of new developments to complete a certain number of FDDs to offset the additional flow in the sanitary system caused by new construction.

The CDM contract drew scrutiny because the city is currently undertaking a sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation (SSWWE) study. It’s supposed to yield a recommendation about whether to continue with the FDD program, and if so, in what form. In addition, the city’s ordinance, which requires property owners to undertake FDDs, was challenged in a lawsuit filed earlier this year. That case is pending as the city has removed the case from state to federal court and the plaintiffs are seeking to remand it back to state court. A hearing is scheduled for May 28 on the question of remand. Questions have been raised about the quality of work performed by CDM.

City administrator Steve Powers offered to set up meetings between staff and councilmembers in advance of the council’s May 5 meeting to discuss the resolution. The resolution is perceived by some as an indicator that the sanitary sewer wet weather evaluation (SSWWE) would have a forgone conclusion that the FDD should continue. However, at more than one meeting of the advisory committee that’s working on the study, staff and consultants have indicated that if the FDD were to continue at all, it would almost certainly not continue in its current form.

And the staff memo accompanying the resolution on the contract addressed possible questions by stressing that until the SSWWE is completed and a determination is made on the city’s approach to wet weather sanitary sewer flows, the services of CDM will be required in order to continue the existing FDD and DOM programs. It’s expected that this contract would cover services that are needed through January 2015.

This item on the May 5 agenda would have approved the fourth contract extension of an original contract with CDM dating back to 2006. This amendment to the CDM contract includes: citizen support ($36,928); FDD citizens advisory committee meetings ($24,180); information management for sump pump monitors ($93,707); developer offset mitigation program support; ($95,213); and multi-family FDD implementation ($498,005). When the item appears on the June 2 agenda it’s possible that some of those items might not be included.

The previous three iterations of the CDM contract totaled  about $3.6 million. The money for these contracts is drawn from the city’s sewer fund.

The proposed contract extension drew criticism during public commentary on May 5 from Frank Burdick, a Ward 4 resident who urged the council to reject it. Council deliberations on this item are included as part of The Chronicle’s live updates from the meeting.

Since the FDD program’s start in 2001, about 1,834 footing drains have been disconnected through the city program and 848 footing drains have been disconnected through the developer offset mitigation program.

Animation of contrast between the pre-FDD configuration and the post-FDD configuration. (Original illustration from screenshot of Youtube video by Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, modified by The Chronicle.)

Animation of contrast between the pre-FDD configuration and the post-FDD configuration. (Original illustration from screenshots of YouTube video by Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, modified by The Chronicle.)

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.