How it works

MPI is a voluntary program that functions without a memorandum of understanding, formal membership, fees, or mandatory duties. Each year, the public works and construction committees compile a list of communities’ needs and divides the projects based on budget and geography. (See Figure 2 below.) Communities can participate in whatever contracts meet their needs. They can even sign on after bids are accepted although, says Burke, “We encourage communities to participate up front so we can get better prices.”

<strong xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">Figure 2</strong> — Six of the nine joint bids offered by the Municipal Partnering Initiative public works committee last year were new.

Figure 2 — Six of the nine joint bids offered by the Municipal Partnering Initiative public works committee last year were new.

Credit: Municipal Partnering Initiative


The participating governments take turns coordinating the contracts. In the first year, Glenview took the lead on most projects. By 2013, the load was shared by 11 communities managing 15 joint bids. Responsibilities handled by the lead agency include:

  • Work with participating municipalities to determine interest and schedule meetings
  • Gather information needed for bid specifications and scope
  • Release and receive bids
  • Distribute bid results and recommend award

Once a contractor is selected, each community awards its own contract and works with that contractor to schedule the services. “The contract specs are consistent, but each town has legal requirements, bid bonds, and performance bonds specific to that town,” explains D’Agostino. Each community is responsible for managing its contract and paying the contractor.

As the program evolves, contracts are adapted for optimal cost savings. Factors such as service type, geographic locations, fiscal calendars, and price breaks dictate the ideal profile and number of participants. For example, sidewalk contracts are organized geographically to ensure the work can be completed in just one season.

Some contracts are awarded for multiple years to help control time spent on bid spec preparation. “We come to an agreement with the vendor to hold prices or maintain small price escalators,” says Burke. “We make sure all the communities are satisfied and willing to move forward, and extend it through a letter.”

Other services, such as street resurfacing, are rewritten annually because quantities vary so much year to year, Burke says. And in a creative solution for emergency water main and sewer repairs, MPI signed multiyear contracts with three providers. This approach allowed communities to call on whichever contractor was available immediately without having to negotiate prices under pressure.

<strong xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">Figure 3</strong> — Savings estimates are based primarily on unit costs and don’t reflect efficiencies realized by consolidating things like engineer and attorney reviews or bid creation, advertising, and awarding.

Figure 3 — Savings estimates are based primarily on unit costs and don’t reflect efficiencies realized by consolidating things like engineer and attorney reviews or bid creation, advertising, and awarding.

Credit: Municipal Partnering Initiative


Cost savings

MPI estimates aggregate savings ranging from $1.23 million to $1.56 million from 2011-13. Savings are estimated as shown in Figure 3 above by comparing unit costs to those paid by non-participating towns or to unit costs paid by towns earlier in non-MPI years, and incorporating a range for variability.

As more time elapses and more communities participate, “it becomes harder to find good unit cost comparisons because more communities are participating in the joint bids,” says D’Agostino. “We can also show that we’re containing costs by keeping the prices capped. We wouldn’t award a bid if it doesn’t show a savings.”

Burke summed up the value of the program in a presentation to MPI partners last fall: “Working together collaboratively is the new normal,” he said. “This is not a fad that should go away when revenues recover.”

Readers are invited to contact D’Agostino at pdagostino@glenview.il.us for additional information or examples of joint bids.

Diana Granitto is a freelance writer based in suburban Chicago. E-mail dgranitto@msn.com.

CONTINUED: Sidebar on assessing success.