Steamboat Springs City officials awarded Duckels Construction a nearly $4.5 million contract Tuesday night for work at the base of Steamboat Ski Area and decided not to investigate rumors questioning the integrity of the bid process.
The Steamboat Springs City Council, acting as the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, voted, 5-1, to award the contract to Duckels, which will build part of a public promenade, daylight a section of Burgess Creek and complete associated work this summer and fall. City Council President Cari Hermacinski voted against the contract because of what she said were “very substantial” differences in Duckels’ initial and final proposals. The differences spurred allegations that bid prices were leaked during the selection process.
Hermacinski said the rumors, and “even the appearance of corruption in the bid process,” could raise questions with the public.
“This is big money you’re dealing with on behalf of the taxpayers,” she said to other City Council members.
Fred Duckels and Derick Duckels said Tuesday that Duckels Construction did not, in any way, lower its final bid because of knowledge of other bids.
“I’ve agreed to pay for all polygraph tests and everything else — we stand behind our work,” Fred Duckels said. “There was nothing leaked to us.”
City Manager Jon Roberts, city purchasing and risk manager Anne Small, and base area redevelopment coordinator Joe Kracum all said they had heard rumors of leaked bids but had no firsthand evidence to substantiate those rumors.
City officials debated how to handle the issue for nearly two hours in Centennial Hall.
A motion for a Steamboat Springs Police Department investigation into the bid process failed on a 3-3 vote, with council members Hermacinski, Jon Quinn and Kenny Reisman voting for an investigation and Meg Bentley, Scott Myller and Jim Engelken voting against. Councilman Walter Magill stepped down from the issue because he bid for construction surveying services on the project.
Duckels Construction presented a selection committee with a final bid of about $7.18 million for the entire project, an amount that company Vice President Derick Duckels said was about $450,000 less than Duckels’ initial bid.
The selection committee took proposals for the entire project, which would extend into 2011, with the understanding that only a 2010 contract would be awarded at this time and that funding might not be available for next year’s work.
The selection committee unanimously voted to recommend Duckels for the promenade and daylighting project. Kracum wrote in a memo to the council that the committee thought Duckels “provided the best proposal and (best and final offer) and exceeded the ranking of other proposers.”
The other two finalists for the project were Native Excavating and Connell Resources. All three finalists went through a “best and final offer” process, in which finalists presented an initial bid and interviewed separately with the selection committee March 18. After conducting the three interviews, the committee gave each finalist until 5 p.m. March 22 to submit a revised proposal.
Small said the interviews reviewed several other factors in addition to costs, such as project scheduling, approach and construction staff.
Small said Duckels Construction and Connell Resources returned March 22 with bids lower than their initial offerings. Native Excavating’s final bid was higher than its initial bid.
Derick Duckels said the company’s initial bid was “around $7.5” million. Derick Duckels said he and Fred Duckels, his father, worked to lower their initial bid to stay competitive for the project, based on a price range of $7 million to $7.5 million that Derick Duckels said he saw in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
A March 16 newspaper article included that cost range, attributed to Kracum’s comments to the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
Small said Tuesday that she “cannot believe anyone on that committee leaked those numbers — they would have no reason to do so.” She said committee members had instructions that the initial bids were strictly confidential.
Native’s final bid was about $7.23 million. Connell’s final bid was about $7.25 million. Hermacinski said those two bids changed less than $100,000 each, a much lesser degree than Duckels’ change.
Duckels Construction has conducted three years of previous work on base area redevelopment projects.
Kracum told City Council that work could begin April 19.
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org