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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  • Mair

    Oh me of little faith… meter is out front, under the manhole in the sidewalk, no snow meant no estimated reading…..and my last bill was wrong. Methinks there are problems other than “ARBs”.

  • Josh Hall

    I guess the question is – Does Spinnello have a history of underbidding contracts in order to win them, but then making up their actual cost through EWO’s. 

    • PCCP

      i don’t think its necessarily that. 

      its less a question of underbidding as it is taking a chance on certain items. seeing as the work itself you can’t see until you start digging, there are items to cover a variety of situations that you might encounter. I have a major issue in that the city basically gave Spiniello a chance to figure out what it takes to do these things before they advertised 4 contracts simultaneously. that is, if you have an item for say, replacing cast iron water mains with ductile iron, and you don’t think there are any cast iron mains left in the city, you bid that item very cheap. odds are you won’t need it, and you want to win the job.

      On another note, there were 4 contracts to be awarded separately. you can’t add the cumulative dollar amounts and then do a comparison because that isn’t how it works. 

      its also funny that the Baltimore Brew thinks Monumental Paving is the arch rival of Spiniello. That doesn’t lend this website any credibility whatsoever, but furthers their agenda to paint the picture that you need to be a favorite of the city to win any work with them.

      but I am dying to know how Spiniello plans on replacing these within the contract time(s) allotted.

      • Able Baker

        Workload has a lot to do with where the bids come in as well.  Spinello has won a few large contracts recently and may not want to take a chance on a job that may not be profitable.

        I’m surprised Monumental can bond a job of that size.  Spinello certainly can, but I’d bet that $8 million would absorb every bit of Monumental’s bonding capacity and then some. 

  • Barnadine the Pirate

    Every unit should have a meter that can be seen on the internet in real time. The city should not need a single meter-reader. People could check their own water usage if something seemed wrong. The whole system could be funded by promising a contractor a tiny percentage of the water bill. The savings — both in increased accuracy, and in not needing so many meter-readers and other people whose jobs consist largely of correcting messed-up bills — would outweigh the slight decrease in revenue.

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