Where there's smoke there's fire. The city's problem with awarding low bid contracts continues and I'm now convinced that someone who shouldn't be influencing the process is influencing the process.
Below you will find the bid tab for the Armijo park improvements (Niland's district - the westsiders get everything!).
If you check the date on the top left of the page, you'll notice it bid on November 13, 2013. This project will not be slated for award and then construction until another bid is submitted by interested parties. Why?
The lowest bidder on November 13th was Kaizen Construction Services. The city was set to award them the bid even though Kaizen completely ignored putting a price down for bid item #13. This is clearly in violation of the bid rules and always has been. The rules for bidding clearly state that you must put a value for each bid item - even if that value is just the number zero. If you leave any item blank the bid is "non-responsive." I saw at least 20 bids in my short career in construction thrown out for this violation. It happens all the time. In the past they would simply move on to the second lowest bidder. It didn't happen this time.
The city ignored its own rules and slated the non-responsive bid for award by putting it on the council agenda. The second low bidder - Medlock Commercial - filed a protest rightly stating that the bid by Kaizen was non-responsive as per the rules of the bidding process. The city pulls the item from the agenda.
What happens next is the thing that makes me think another FBI raid on government offices is likely.
The city decides to rebid the whole entire project. City officials told bidder that they had run out of time... which is weird because the city asks bidders to extend their bids all the time. I mean, like every other bid you put out there ends up having to be extended for another 60 days while they figure some little problem out. Usually that problem is with funding sources and not the bids themselves. It's weird that they'd rebid the project and use time as the reason.
However, it all starts making sense when you realize that they not only are they rebidding the project, they've completely changed the structure and form of the bid to be submitted by contractors. And by "making sense" I mean that it only makes sense if you look at the city's moves in the light of possible unethical or criminal intent.
The original bid was a "unit price" bid. That means the different construction items were broken out one by one and priced. This way of bidding construction work protects the city from ridiculous change orders among other things. If there happens to be a need for more sidewalks than what was original bid, the city has their unit price from their original bid to determine the cost of the extra sidewalk. The contractor can't get away with charging an outrageous amount for an extra few feet of sidewalk. That's a good thing.
The city has now changed the Armijo park bid to a "lump sum" bid. This means there is no breakdown of price per construction item. There's just one big number. You can't accidentally leave a price off of your bid and get disqualified for it because the city has no idea what went into your price. Obviously, this way of bidding allows a contractor to screw the city (taxpayers in reality) on a change order among other things. Most of the modern world has moved away from lump sum bids for civil construction projects.
So what does the change mean?
It means that the city is doing everything it can to ensure that Kaizen wins this bid. They got caught trying to illegally set the bid for award on the council agenda. Instead of awarding it the second lowest, they were inclined to start the entire process over and tweak it so that it favored the original low bidder. The city is doing everything they can to keep from awarding the project to Medlock and I can't understand why.
I know what some of you are saying - "Stupid David K, low is low is is low is low and it doesn't matter as long as it is the cheapest." I would argue that Kaizen simply decided they weren't going to complete a task in the scope of work. If you were buying a Mercedes and the cheapest one came without wheels and tires, is it still a "deal?" No.
The price of the project has been thrown out the window at this point. After you figure all the staff time to rebid this project you've exceeded the price Medlock would have completed the project for. This move was not made to save money. It was made to make sure one contractor got this contract and that's wrong.
I hate to have to reiterate this point, but it must be done. None of this crap was going on with construction bids until Mayor Leeser took office. I'm not saying he's on the take - because he is not. I'm just putting in a time marker for when the problems started. I don't know if it's a coincidence or because the mayor has more hands off approach or if it's because the city manager is leaving or because there have been other changes, but it all started after Leeser took office.
Making things look worse is the rumor that the mayor doesn't even want construction contracts brought to council for approval anymore. He thinks once a construction budget is set during the budgeting process that city staff should just award to the low bidder within budget without bringing it to council. We're talking $5 million projects just slipped to a bidder out of the public view here. You can't tell me that's a good idea, can you? The mayor claims that construction contract agenda items are just "rubber stamped" by council and a waste of time. I would argue that they are not and in recent months council and staff have screwed over contractors on some very simple awards.
The bottom line is that contractors are going to stop bidding city work if the rules aren't applied to everyone equally. Why do you think you only got three bidders on San Jacinto park? Because all the other big boys in town know the city doesn't play fair. What do you think will happen to the bids when there is no competition? Through the roof they will go while the quality plummets. Is that the kind of city you want to live in?