Glenwood Springs council stands by lowest-bid award for 22nd Street infrastructure project
A $10,000 difference between bids by a Glenwood Springs-based firm and an Edwards-based firm raised public questions about local preference at Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday.
The council ultimately voted to award a nearly $700,000 bid for infrastructure work to the lowest bid, which came from the Edwards-based contractor.
During their regular meeting Thursday, councilors opened the floor to public comment on a consent agenda item detailing the bid award for sewer and street work to be completed on 22nd Street.
“This project has been in the works since about 2007,” Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Matt Langhorst said. “It originally pertained only to the sanitary sewer line and a little roadway construction.”
The recession in 2008 halted the project, but it was brought back in 2016 when the sewer became problematic. The project calls for the replacement of a clay 4-inch sewer line and a galvanized 2-inch water line.
“We’ve had two or three backup claims that the city’s had to pay for and deal with,” Langhorst said. “Also, the water line doesn’t provide for any fire flow for a fire hydrant on the end of that 600-foot stretch of road.”
Using funding from the city’s street tax budget and water and sewer tax, the public works department put together a plan to fix the water and sewer lines as well as adding sidewalks, curbs and gutters to the road, which would also be rebuilt. The total project was estimated to cost about $900,000.
The revised 2020 COVID budget, however, re-allocated $200,000 from the 2019 Streets Tax budget, leaving the project short of the funding needed, Langhorst explained.
With only $700,000 available, the project went out to bid.
“I wasn’t very hopeful we would see any bids in our budget range,” Langhorst said.
The city received five bids ranging from about $700,000 to about $850,000. The lowest was offered by Ewing Trucking, of Edwards.
The second lowest was submitted by Gould Construction, of Glenwood Springs, and only over shot Ewing’s bid by about $10,000.
Councilor Steve Davis said he pulled the bid award from the consent agenda to discuss the possibility of giving the project to Gould.
“In light of our shrinking local economy as a result of COVID-19,” Davis said, “I thought we should have the conversation about keeping this $750,000 in the community.”
It was not immediately clear where the additional $42,000 Davis mentioned would come from as Gould’s bid was only about $708,000.
About six months ago, the city removed its local preference clause, which encouraged councilors and city staff to consider the lowest local bid rather than lowest, Davis said.
Langhorst said the preference was removed to encourage more competitive bidding. When the city had a local preference, it clarified preference would be given to bidders located within 45 miles. Ewing Trucking is located about 48 miles from Glenwood, and Langhorst said an argument might have been made they could also qualify for local preference.
During public comment, Glenwood resident Monica Wolny said the city should keep the work in the city, and another resident asked why the city couldn’t allow Gould to submit a second bid, countering Ewing’s.
City Attorney Karl Hanlon explained the bidding process used for this specific project was sealed and did not allow for negotiations.
Mark Gould, representing Gould Construction, told councillors wording in the bid paperwork allowed the city to forgo the practice of granting a project to the lowest bidder.
Langhorst explained the wording was intended to give the council an out if staff discovered something concerning in a submitted bid, such as extremely long completion projections.
Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said the council should abide by the guidance they’ve previously given staff — to accept the lowest bid.
“I’m pretty uncomfortable with this whole conversation,” Kaup said. “We have a pretty well spelled-out bid process. I’m not comfortable with any local contractor coming to council and saying, ‘I wasn’t low bid, but I want the project anyway.’”
Removing the local preference clause, then granting a bid award to a local contractor, who wasn’t the lowest bidder, could set a “dangerous precedent” for future projects, she added.
“Our bid process is about us as a town being fiscally responsible to our tax payers,” Kaup said. “I realize this was not a big difference in cost, but we do have a low bidder on the job that met all the qualifications.”
The council approved awarding Ewing Trucking with the bid 6-1, with Councilor Tony Hershey voting against.
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