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home : current news : current news August 22, 2017

4/9/2013 1:35:00 PM
Council throws out bids on water line
By John Griffith

Following the advice of City Attorney Steve Bryant, the Sisters City Council voted 4-1 to throw out all bids on the city's $250,000 Hood Avenue/Fir Street waterline upgrade.

Public Works Director Paul Bertagna will modify the bid criteria to meet a timeline that seeks to get the work done in the face of Sisters Rodeo, and propose a new weighting process giving more weight to the bid price.

The city missed a requirement of the bid process, leaving them open to a potential lawsuit. Bryant will add a checklist to ensure that the council properly administers future proposals (see "City's bid process draws a challenge," The Nugget, March 20, page 1 for details on the bid challenge).

All five councilors expressed their distaste for the two choices they were offered. The first choice was to approve the bid award to Robinson & Owen, and to allow the bid challenge to run its legal course. The second choice was to throw out all current bids and rebid the project with modified criteria, timeline, and checklist.

Bryant said, "I recommend that the council reject all bids and then direct staff how you would like to leave it. I will make sure that all holes get plugged.

"Even if the protest is not viable, the cost to defend it is going to way outstrip the $3,500 it is going to cost to rebid, probably by a factor of five or 10 depending how far it goes," Bryant continued. "The potential liability for the city is significant as well if it turns out there was a problem for the bid. This (throwing out all bids) is a faster, cheaper, cleaner option for the city."

Councilor David Asson referred to the recommendation as "hogwash" and put forward a motion to accept the Robinson & Owen bid. The motion failed to get a second. Council President McKibben Womack then moved to accept the Bryant recommendation. The motion was seconded by councilor Wendy Holzman, and the motion passed 4-1, with Asson dissenting.

Councilor Catherine Childress said, "How can we keep this on a timeline to get done before Rodeo, because that is a big issue with the business owners downtown?"

Bertagna said, "We can look at putting the Rodeo timeline into the specification; I would suggest putting in a blackout for those three days (of Rodeo). We can also require the contractor to do the Cascade portion of it first. I don't think we have enough time to get the whole project done before Rodeo."

All contractors are pre-qualified by the city before they are allowed to bid on projects.

There are two options the city can follow in requesting bids from qualified contractors for a project. The first is the competitive bid process - lowest price wins. The second is the competitive proposal process. The council has used the proposal process in earlier bids, and agreed to continue with the proposal option for this rebid.

The proposal process includes requirements that the bidder clearly detail his timeline (including blackouts, night work, weekend work, etc.). The bid also requests a detailed communication and feedback plan laying out how the contractor will interact and respond to input from the affected merchants and residents.

A well-executed communication plan was a highlight of the Main Avenue upgrade, and has been at the heart of drawing merchant support for the upcoming Cascade Avenue upgrade project.

The problem with the Hood Avenue project competitive bid "proposal" came from the fact that the bid review process awards points for lowest bid, communication plan, community presence, etc. The contractor with the highest "point" total wins the bid. Price is only one factor in the decision process. For this project, price was 30 percent of the total points available. Bertagna indicated that all future bids would allow a higher point total for price.

Bryant explained that per state requirements, the bid review board must validate by vote the fact that the weighted bid criteria "will not create favoritism," and that using the weighted criteria "is a financial benefit to the city of Sisters."

This explicit vote was taken for the Hood Avenue project.

The revised competitive "proposal" process, and the specific weighted criteria for the rebid of the Hood Avenue/Fir Street waterline upgrade project is on the April 11 council agenda for review and approval.

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