Contractors clash over bidding on Main Street

The cost and scope of the renovation of seven blocks of Main Street in downtown Grand Junction have been scrutinized and criticized since the project was unveiled seven months ago.

Now, exactly who should perform the work is a matter of some debate.

Two local contractors are scuffling to win the right to build the first half of the so-called Downtown Uplift, with one alleging the other submitted an incomplete bid and castigating its proposal to bring in two subcontractors from outside the Grand Valley.

The City Council tonight is expected to award a contract for the Downtown Development Authority-funded project.

FCI Constructors submitted the lowest bid of $2.31 million. Sorter Construction came in a close second with a bid of $2.39 million. Both were considerably below the city engineer’s project estimate of $3.53 million.

In a letter to the city, Sorter Construction President Bill Ogle noted FCI left blank one of the line items in its bid. He contended the city should consider the firm’s bid incomplete and reject it.

Grand Junction Public Works and Planning Director Tim Moore said FCI failed to list a price for removing a sign post on Main Street. He said the city estimated the cost of that work at $100. When contacted about the missing price, he said, FCI said it would remove the sign post at no cost.

That FCI left blank one line item on a bid that contained a total of 230 line items isn’t enough to disqualify the firm’s bid, Moore said.

“If it were one item for $500,000, then that’s different than one line item for $100,” he said.

Some in the building community have attacked FCI’s bid on another front: The contractor proposes hiring a Loveland subcontractor to install new water and storm water lines and a Las Vegas, Nev., subcontractor to complete the landscaping on Main Street.

Moore said the two outside subcontractors will account for about $415,000, or 18 percent, of the total project cost. The balance of the work would be done by local companies. By comparison, all of Sorter’s subcontractors are locally based.

Some local contractors are questioning why the city would hire outside workers rather than local companies in the midst of a recession that has left the building community starving for work.

“All of the Mesa County contractors that are involved understand the sensitivity of downtown, and are best-suited to build this project,” Ogle wrote in his letter.

FCI President Ed Forsman responded with his own letter that touted several local projects the company has completed.

“FCI has a vested interest in the Downtown Uplift project in that Grand Junction is the hometown to 100 of our employees,” Forsman wrote. “It is our intent to buy as much of the project locally as feasibly possible, achieve the highest level of quality and maintain an aggressive schedule.”

Reached by phone Tuesday, Forsman said the blank line item was a “technical error” and that the cost of removing the post was included in the total price. As for the out-of-area subcontractors, he said FCI is proposing to bring in firms that submitted the lowest bids, although the selections are subject to change.

“We’re as much about doing business locally as anybody. But we’re a local contractor, and we want to work in the community as well. That’s what free competition and the competitive process is all about,” he said.

Ogle was out of town most of the day Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

More than 40 residents and Main Street business owners have signed a petition asking the city to require that all workers on the project be based in Mesa County.

The city generally awards contracts to the lowest bidder, but City Council members have indicated they want to retain some level of flexibility and be able to consider bids on a case-by-case basis.

Moore said the city requires general contractors to list all subcontractors they plan to employ whose work will constitute more than 5 percent of the project cost. Beyond that, he said the city doesn’t concern itself with specific subcontractors.

“We haven’t tried to tell general contractors who they can and can’t work with. They need to be able to select the people they think they can work with the best to do the job,” he said.

The first phase of the project, which will begin in January and should wrap up by the end of June, will cover Main Street between First and Fourth Streets. The project will require the closure of that section of Main.

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