Glenwood Springs City Council signs off on $1.25 million contract for 27th Street bridge construction management

A pair of bicyclists make their way across the 27th Street bridge, aka the Sunlight Bridge, via the pedestrian walkway on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs’ Thursday night City Council meeting played out like an episode of Shark Tank when it came to haggling over a construction management contract for the 27th Street bridge replacement.

Mayor Michael Gamba took on the negotiating role of Mark Cuban, while Councilor Steve Davis leaned back in his seat with a concerned, questioning look like that of Kevin O’Leary from the hit show.

The only things missing: popcorn, and the answer as to why the cost of construction management for the 27th Street Bridge replacement project was as high as the hit TV show’s ratings.

“I just feel that, that number is … too much,” Gamba said at one point, referring to the nearly $1.5 million management contract for the nearly $10 million bridge replacement project.

“I’m blown away by the number … compared to the total cost of the project,” Davis echoed.

The total, estimated, cost of the 27th Street bridge — or Sunlight Bridge as it’s formally known — replacement carries with it a hefty price tag of $9,990,569. Also at its Thursday meeting, council unanimously agreed to take the project out to bid, following several years of planning and engineering work.

A significant portion of that will line the construction management team’s pockets — in this case, a company by the name of HDR Inc. out of Denver.

However, while the city had five bidders — HDR, Wood (Denver), Alfred Benesch & Co. (Denver), Ground Engineering (Englewood) and Sopris Engineering (Carbondale) — actual financial negotiations took place with only HDR, even though companies like Wood only scored one point less than HDR.

“As I understand it, we won’t know what the company who had one point less than HDR had. … We won’t know what their offer was,” Councilor Rick Voorhees pointed out. “It seems kind of disingenuous that, out of 184 possible points, that one point would prevent … a deliberative body spending public money from knowing what the second place bidder was.”

Why was this the case? It has to do with federal funding that’s tied to the 27th Street bridge project.

“It’s an awkward process, because normally you guys are seeing kind of hard numbers from multiple bidders, and in this case we have a number from a [single] bidder because that’s the way the process works,” Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon said in addressing council.

“Since the city was awarded federal funding for both the design and construction of the 27th Street bridge, staff had to follow federal guidelines on procurement,” Glenwood Springs City Manager Debra Figueroa told the Post Independent. “We were required to negotiate with only the most qualified contractor for construction management.

“Cost could not be considered, only qualifications as per the requirements of the grant funding,” she said. “We were unable to negotiate with both HDR and Wood at the same time.”

HDR scored a 184. Wood earned a 183.

The five evaluators were Assistant City Engineers Jessica Bowser and Matthew Langhorst, City Transportation Manager Tanya Allen, Dave McCollough from the Colorado Department of Transportation, and Garfield County Road and Bridge Director Wyatt Keesbery.

With council still unsatisfied with the price in front of them, and with a representative from HDR also before them, live negotiations ensued.

“Go ahead and sell us on your number,” Gamba said, inviting HDR’s Glenwood Springs Project Engineer Joe Elsen to the podium.

“Have I got a deal for you,” Elsen replied. “It’s flexible. It’s a not-to-exceed number.”

Elsen is the former program engineer for CDOT who was involved on the front end of the $126 million Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project that just concluded. His expertise, and the fact that although HDR has an office in Denver, a lot of Elsen’s specific team is from Glenwood Springs, sat well with the council.

Elsen, himself, lives within walking distance of the Sunlight Bridge — 1.2 miles on the dot, he said.

At the end of the show, HDR, was awarded a construction management contract in an amount not to exceed $1.25 million.

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