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The Dripby Mark Reutter12:14 pmApr 9, 20120

Spiniello low bidder for replacing problem water meters


New Jersey-based Spiniello Companies has swept the competition in the contest to replace about 10,000 water meters tied to the city’s controversial practice of estimating residential water bills.

In four closely-watched contracts to replace Automatic Reading and Billing (ARB) meters with outside meters, Spiniello submitted the lowest price in each case.

Overall, the contractor’s bid of $16,683,025 was 43% below its chief rival, Baltimore-based Monumental Paving & Excavating. Separately, each Spiniello bid was below those of its competitors.

The bids were opened last week and, barring a last-minute setback, Spiniello should be awarded the contracts by the Board of Estimates.

(UPDATE: This afternoon the city disclosed the three suppliers of $36 million worth of new meters and components. The main supplier is L/B Water Service of Selinsgrove, PA., whose $24.9 million bid for residential and compound meters is scheduled to be approved by the Board of Estimates on Wedsnesday.

(The other two suppliers are Mueller Systems of Cleveland, N.C., with $9 million for 3- and 7-in.-wide fire service meters, and Neptune Technology Group of Tallassee, AL., with $2.2 million for intermediate and turbine meters.

(The lowest bidder on the main contract, Badger Meter of Milwaukee, was rejected by the city. Its bid on residential and compound meters was $20.6 million, or $4.3 million less than L/B Water Service, according to city records.)

Go-To Contractor

Spiniello has become the de-facto repair arm for the Bureau of Water and Wastewater, securing $13.5 million in EWOs (extra work orders) to repair ruptured and leaking water mains since 2010.

Under this arrangement, Spiniello and the bureau negotiate the price for “urgent-need work” on an existing contract, rather than submit the project to competitive bidding (see here).

The replacement of ARBs in four quadrants of Baltimore city and county (southeast, southwest, north and northwest) is a first step toward  bringing consistency to all residential meters, according to water bureau officials.

Spiniello has become the de-facto repair arm of the city water bureau. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Spiniello has become the in-house contractor for the water bureau. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

ARBs were installed as a pilot project inside homes in the 1970s.

Some of the meters have been buried or destroyed, forcing meter readers to enter a residence or rely on estimated readings.

Last month, the Board of Estimates approved a $552,000 extra work order (EWO) to Spiniello to replace the ARB meters that no longer function at all.

The four new contracts will convert most of the remaining ARBs (about 10,000) to outside meters.

The water bureau recently acknowledged – in response to a critical audit by the City Comptroller’s Office – that it had overcharged $4.3 million on 38,000 customer accounts over the last three years.

Spiniello Bids on Other Contracts

In two other contracts opened last week, Spiniello was, alternately, the lowest and highest bidder.

For inspecting, cleaning and lining sewers using cured-in-place pipe, the contractor beat out four competitors with a low bid of $2,833,850.

However, Spiniello submitted the highest price for the rehabilitation the “high-level” sewershed on Liberty Heights Ave. in Ashburton. Its $7.8 million bid was nearly double the low bid of $4,016,143.71 by Monumental Paving & Excavating.

These contracts are expected to be submitted to the Board of Estimates in a few weeks.

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