BY ROBERT MORALES
Commissioners on Monday spent a great deal of time on Item #10: Discuss/Act on 2013 TxCDBG Community Facilities Grant, Fire Station Phase II; Ambulance. Sealed bids were opened for the third time. The county had to re-bid the project after Badillo Construction rescinded its bid recently.
Ms. Brewster told the Advocate that going out for bids a third time could be considered an “extenuating circumstanceâ€ because the rescission of the bid was out of the control of the county. County Judge Carlos Urias read aloud the four bids received:
â€¢Ameriway Construction: $90,350 [Base Bid: $45,750, Add 1: $27,600; Add 2: $12,500; Add 3 $4,500]
â€¢Benning Construction: $252,910 [Base Bid: $115,847,000, Add 1: $62,914; Add 2: $$71,389; Add 3: $2,760]
â€¢AAA General Contractors: $64,100 [Base Bid: $49,800; no bidding for Adds 1-3]
â€¢Pride General Contractors: $178,000 [Base Bid: 130,000, Add 1: $18,000; Add 2: $22,000; Add 3: $8,000]
â€¢Add Alternates (specific add-ons to the base bid) included three Adds: Add 1 for front paving; Add 2 for west paving; Add 3 for HVAC and storage)
The bid proposal called for interior work to be finished at the fire station as well as front paving and westside paving. The lowest bid was provided by Ameriway Construction; however, Lupito Alvarado, owner of AAA General Contractors, told commissioners that he had not bid on the paving portion because he was told by a county employee that the paving contract had been awarded to McCoy Construction.
Although commissioners did initially award the paving contract to McCoy Construction as a small purchase contract, the interior was done by force account.
Commissioners at the time believed that some of the construction could be done in-house, and the bids were scrapped.
Discussion centered around the employee who provided inaccurate information as well as the responsibility a contractor has in asking questions to the appropriate person or persons. Typically in a construction contract, those answers are provided by the architect or the engineer in charge of the project.
Originally, the first bids came in too high, and commissioners rejected them and opted to re-bid the project. Prior to the sealed bids being opened in open session, Mr. Badillo asked the court to allow him to rescind his bid, and commissioners accepted the rescission. Contractors who bid the first time bid on an all-inclusive project which included paving and the interior of the fire station.
For the second bidding process, the paving portion was separated from the interior. Initially, commissioners approved the interior work to be performed under a force account.
A force account is the payment method used for extra work if the contractor and the owner cannot agree on a unit price or lump sum amount, or if those methods are impracticable. Force account payments cover labor, materials, and equipment.
At one point, Judge Urias asked Ms. Brewster whether it was possible to negotiate the bids.
“You can throw away the bids, and re-advertise,â€ said Ms. Brewster. “You cannot negotiate. Thatâ€™s the purpose of a sealed bid. If you award the bid and there is something that needs changed, it can be done via change order. [CDBG] is very adamant about not being able to negotiate with the bidders. That negates the sealed bid process.â€
County Attorney Steve Mitchell said that negotiating “goes beyond what grants were intended for.â€ He said that it was against state law to mess with the sealed bidding process.
Ms. Brewster added that the grant has a little more than $90,000 remaining for the construction project. To qualify as a low bidder, the contractor would have had to bid under $90,000. She reminded commissioners that the grant expires November 11 meaning that there is no time to re-bid or to ask for a 90-day extension.
If commissioners had chosen to re-bid the project, CDBG would have likely questioned the motive for going out for a fourth bid, and it would also have been quite likely that CDBG would have declined to allow a fourth bid to take place because Ameriway was the low bidder.
Even if CDBG had allowed a fourth bid, there was also a possibility that the bids would have come in higher than the budgeted amount, and at that point, the grant would have expired and the fire station would remain as is.
After a long silence from commissioners, Judge Urias commented that it was “troublingâ€ that Mr. Alvarado was unable to bid on the paving portion of the project because of a county employee giving erroneous information. “Itâ€™s just not good.â€
“I will take this as a lesson learned,â€ said Mr. Alvarado. “I will rescind my bid so that the fire station can get the work done that it needs.â€
After discussion ended, commissioners voted unanimously to award the bid to Ameriway Construction.
In other action, Marisa Quintanilla from The Rio Grande Council of Governments (COG) made a presentation to commissioners regarding the adoption of a multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation action plan and the upgrade of the countyâ€™s 911 dispatch system.
According to Ms. Quintanilla, the purpose of the mitigation plan is to identify the potential dangers that may pose a danger to persons and property within the jurisdiction. The plan identifies potential remediation actions that can be implemented to reduce risk. She added that the county is not required to implement any of the actions in the plan; however, having an approved plan and if a disaster occurs, mitigation action funds are available for jurisdictions to apply for these funds.
If the county suffers a disaster and the disaster is deemed a “presidential disaster,â€ the county would have access to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dollars. In late July, the Texas Department of Public Safety sent an advisory letter to Judge Urias stating that FEMA had concluded review of the countyâ€™s mitigation action plan and that the plan was acceptable pending adoption.
In regard to a new work station at the 911 dispatch center, Ms. Quintanilla announced that Culberson County was next on the list to receive renovations and an upgrade to the current system. She said that the COG provides the equipment, but that labor costs would be borne by the county.
Currently, Alpine serves as the “primary hostâ€ for 911 dispatch calls and Culberson County serves as a secondary or redundant host, said Ms. Quintanilla.
The countyâ€™s work stations were last installed in 2004 and are in dire need of modernization, she added. Aside from equipment, the COG will pay for electrician and furniture. Completion for the new work station is due to be completed in mid-January 2016.
Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the mitigation plan as well as to accept the COGâ€™s 911 work station upgrades.
Commissioners took action on the following items:
â€¢Adopted a resolution to apply for Texas Department of Agriculture grant for funding for meals for elderly and disabled patrons
â€¢Authorized Adrian Hinojos to attend an income eligibility training course in Lubbock on Sept. 22 for the 2015 HOME Program. Commissioners appointed Becky Brewster as the consultant to prepare the application.
Previously, A&J Howco Services acted as the consultant, but new regulations for grant preparation and administration have changed. The HOME grant would provide funding for roughly $400,000, or four new homes.
â€¢Approved the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) liability insurance renewal for 2015-16 and health insurance renewal, also from TAC. The new rate for an employee only effective Dec. 1, 2015 would be $569.36.
â€¢Awarded fuel bid from C & L Gas Kard. Prices are as follows: $1.695/gallon for dyed diesel, off road use; $1.69/gallon for highway use diesel; and $1.729/gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. The prices do not include state or federal excise taxes. The county will pay 20 cents per gallon for gasoline and 20 cents per gallon for diesel (highway use).
â€¢Conducted 2015-16 budget workshop
â€¢Discussed 2015-16 budget. Judge Urias announced that he would ask for an appropriation of $15,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and $7,500 for the Community Center. A great deal of discussion was focused on apparent confusion regarding employee raises and how they are calculated. Auditor Mark Cabezuela said there should be no confusion because supervisors were given an option of a request for increase or $2,000, but not both.
Mr. Cabezuela acknowledged that the manner in which raises are doled out had been “unfairâ€ for the last two years. Judge Urias presented Mr. Cabezuela a longevity chart that rewards employees based upon number of years worked. The longevity table ranges from zero years to more than 30, with the cap being placed at 10 percent at 20 years. Commissioners also approved making an appropriation for $6,000 for the Kent repeater tower.