Munroe Falls -- The city may soon have some significant professional help in getting a variety of infrastructure projects done.

Mayor James Armstrong told the Stow Sentry Oct. 5 that he hopes to soon have legislation ready for City Council's consideration to approve a contract with Akron-based GPD Group to essentially act as the city's engineering department.

"I'm hoping we could at least give first reading at the [Oct. 18] Council meeting," said Armstrong, adding that he hopes Council will approve the legislation quickly "for the simple reason there's some work I'd like to see them get going on this year so I'd like to get it done sooner rather than later."

Armstrong mentioned two tasks in particular, an assessment of the condition of city roads and a study of the city's stormwater control needs, both longtime concerns of city officials and residents.

Much of the work GPD would do would be billed on an hourly basis, ranging between $48 and $130.

"It varies based on the engineer," said Armstrong, who cautioned that the contract is "preliminary" and the numbers are subject to possible negotiation, depending upon what Council wants to do.

Armstrong said the contracts effective date would be whenever Council approves it and it would run through Dec. 31, 2018.

He said he expects that Council will discuss the proposed contract during its Oct. 11 committee meetings.

Armstrong told Council Oct. 4 that because the one-year contract of Law Director Tom Kostoff is costing the city about $30,000 less than what was budgeted, he is looking into transferring at least some of that money to another part of the city's budget to pay for any work GPD does during the remainder of 2016.

Armstrong has said it has been at least a decade since the city last had a city engineer and hiring a firm was one of his goals this year, his first year in office since his election in November 2015.

Council sat in on presentations given by four firms, including GPD, over the summer. The presentations were given in closed-door executive sessions, which Kostoff said was allowed because they involved a potential contract. Armstrong said the firms requested the private presentations because they would involve divulging proprietary information.

"Council has already had the opportunity to ask their questions," said Armstrong on Oct. 5.

Armstrong told Council Sept. 20 that he chose GPD based on those presentations.

"We all had some favorites, but GPD seemed to be on everybody's list of impressive firms," said Armstrong.

According to GPD's website, the employee-owned company has a dozen offices, half in Ohio and one each in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas and Washington, and does planning and architectural, in addition to engineering work.

"Our team members come from a variety of disciplines," says the website. "This way, we can offer a full-service team to streamline every project. We also have specialists in each area of public buildings, education, housing, land surveying, parks and recreation, utility services, public works, transportation, retail / commercial, telecommunications, healthcare, MES and geotechnical services."

"They do just about everything," said Armstrong, adding "there seemed to be a consensus opinion it would be nice to have just one engineering firm to deal with."

Armstrong said GPD also has experience seeking grants and low- and no-interest loans that could go a long way toward paying for work the company does for the city.

"They have pretty much been able to help their clients get the grants and the funding for a lot of projects," he said.

Armstrong said as part of its selection process, the city contacted a number of GPD clients for their views about the company.

"I don't think we heard a bad thing in all the calls that we made," said Armstrong.


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