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City rejects bids for construction, causing two-month delay

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CITY OF WEST LINN - Construction of the new police station on Eighth Avenue and 13th Street will be delayed by two months.The ongoing project to build a new West Linn police station hit an unexpected bump in the road last week when it was discovered that the construction contract was overbid by about 10 percent.

In response, the city council voted Monday to reject all bids and rebid the contract — a process that will likely delay the project by about two months.

The project opened for bidding on June 5 and attracted five bids ranging from $5.9 million to $6.5 million.

The city, however, had only budgeted for a maximum of $5 million in construction costs, and thus was shocked to see the lowest bid come in substantially higher than its spending limit.

“I think I can speak for the council that we are genuinely disappointed and distressed that this project came in not only over-bid, but significantly over-bid,” Councilor Mike Jones said. “There are very significant costs associated with that that aren’t going to go to the physical aspects of the building.”

Indeed, the city will now be forced to go back to its contracted architecture firm, Group Mackenzie, and pay as much as $60,000 for an expedited redesign of the station that would attract lower bids. In a letter to City Manager Chris Jordan dated June 13, the firm expressed similar surprise at how the bidding process had transpired.

“This is the first time that Group Mackenzie has had the low bid exceed the final cost estimate on a public project,” Project Principal Architect Jeff Humphreys wrote.

Humphreys suggested a number of reasons why this might have happened, including the project’s restrictive requirements for bidders to have experience with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, emergency response facilities and public projects. He also cited economic climate changes caused by constuction of an Intel building in Hillsboro, and noted that certain items were added to the contract after Group Mackenzie’s estimate was complete.

The firm had originally estimated that the 20,054-square-foot facility would price out between $250 and $260 per square foot. The lowest bid, instead, came in at $293 per square foot — far beyond what the city deemed feasible. During Monday’s meeting, City Councilor Thomas Frank expressed frustration regarding both the bid outcome and the fact that the city would have to pay more to Group Mackenzie to right the situation.

“It’s not only going to delay the project, but now we have to pay Group Mackenzie even further to redesign the project,” Frank said. “Where before — it wasn’t in a contract — but they told us that it was going to come in that range, and we didn’t hit it ... that’s my source of frustration.” With the hope of avoiding a repeat scenario during the next bidding process, councilors directed Project Manager Bob Galante to ask Group Mackenzie for a contract amendment that guarantees the next round of bids based on the redesign will come in under budget. Galante said he spoke with firm officials on Tuesday and they agreed to draft those terms.

According to Galante, redesign had already begun on June 18 — the day after he met with council. The plan is to have drawings done and advertised for bid by mid-July, and have a contract approved within the next two months.

The redesign will not consist of any major changes to the station.

As Galante put it, “If you were driving by and looked over quickly, you wouldn’t notice the building changed.”

Rather, Galante and Group Mackenzie will consider minor changes to the building’s insulation and electric wiring plans, along with the types of brick and masonry used on the walls. Because the station will not be used to transport prisoners, plans to build a sally port may also be scrapped, as well as a small portion of the cover over police parking spaces. Eliminating the sally port alone would save an estimated $153,000 according to Galante.

The building will still meet all LEED requirements, but Galante said the actual certification and documentation process may be eliminated to save $33,000 in costs with Group Mackenzie.

The city council indicated that LEED certification was a priority and asked for it to be designated as an “add-on alternate” in the bidding process. If a bidder comes in under budget, the city could then ask for an alternate number that includes LEED certification and make a decision from there.

The building will be located on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 13th Street, and was originally targeted for completion in late spring of 2014.

The project is the result of an $8.5 million general obligation bond measure approved by voters in November of 2011. The West Linn Planning Commission approved the necessary conditional use permits for the project during its meeting on Feb. 20.

The current police station was built in 1936, and according to Police Chief Terry Timeus, it is no longer equipped to serve the department adequately. He said the new station will improve efficiencies and make the officers’ jobs easier.

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