More contractors bid for local jobs

Workers with Mendez Construction set pipe on Coffman Road.There are setting pipe for the Whitewater Wasterwater collection system.

MARK REITZ, director of purchasing and risk management for Mesa County, says contractors today are clamoring for government contracts. “I think it is great news for the county and the taxpayers,” Reitz says.

The economy is slumping, but bids for local government contracts are jumping.

One year ago Mesa County said it was struggling to get requests for proposals on service contracts and construction projects such as roads, bridges and buildings. But now that the economy is in the doldrums, contractors are clamoring for government contracts.

“The contractors in town don’t have as much work as they used to,” said Mark Reitz, director of purchasing and risk management for Mesa County. “I think it is great news for the county and the taxpayers.”

By way of example: Three years ago, requests for proposals for the Summit View Treatment facility, at the corner of Seventh Street and South Avenue, got three bids from local firms. A recent request for proposals to work on the first phase of the new Animal Services building, next door to the Mesa County Landfill, received eight responses from local and Front Range contractors.

“That wouldn’t have happened a couple of years ago,” Reitz said.

Another example can be found in Whitewater. A request for bids to build a wastewater collection system for Whitewater recently received 13 bids. The lowest bid came in $1.3 million less than an engineer’s estimate.

“It was the most bidders I have ever seen on a project,” said Connie Hahn, of Mesa County Public Works.

County contracts are also drawing in competing contractors from outside the area.

“Right now people are trying to keep their crews working; there is so much competition,” said Kevin King, a staff engineer for Mesa County.

“What we are seeing is a more favorable environment,” said Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock.

Typically when the county needs to hire a contractor, it places an ad in The Daily Sentinel and notifies local trade associations, such as the Western Colorado Contractors Association and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Western Colorado Chapter. Not so many months ago, it was not out of the ordinary for only one contractor to show up with an offer at the mandatory pre-

proposal meeting, Reitz said.

Those days seem to have slipped away with the receding stock market.

“There are a lot of competitors coming from the Front Range and other places,” said Ed Forsman, president of FCI Constructors, Inc. of Grand Junction. “There are just more competitors in the marketplace, and obviously you are not going to get as much of the work.”

Dennis Buxman, owner of DKB Construction Services, in Fruitvale, said he does more commercial work for energy companies than government contracts. He said he has seen many of the traditional home builders merge into the commercial construction realm because of the housing slump. And although he says business is fine, it is making life tougher.

“They tend to bid a little lower because they don’t understand the dynamics of commercial construction,” Buxman said.

Much of the energy industry is in need of earth work, industrial, electrical and concrete, said David Myers, president and chief executive officer of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Colorado. The demands for contractors from the energy industry, such as for the Schlumberger project in De Beque, is keeping the local economy afloat, he added.

“It is highly unlikely that if they were really worried about near future ramifications they would be willing to make that kind of investment,” Myers said.

But there has been an economic downturn in other parts of the country and the state, which is why there is a downturn in commercial construction starts, a reduction in backlogs for contractors and greater competition, he said.

“The general consensus of opinion of why this is, is because there is a lot less money for commercial projects in the marketplace,” Myers said. “We are hoping following the election and right after the new year, people are going to start taking a little bit of a long view and start making some of those investments.”


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