The August 12 city council regular meeting agenda contains several items that are staff requests to waive competitive bidding for purchases and contracts. Since there seemed quite a list, I took a closer look to see if they seemed legit. Most did. Then I saw the following:

5. APPROVAL OF A STAFF REQUEST TO WAIVE COMPETITIVE BIDDING AND AWARD A CONTRACT TO IRVING CONSTRUCTION FOR THE FIRE STATION 2 REMODEL IN THE AMOUNT OF $254,750.

In March, the Council authorized the Fire Department to seek bids to accomplish the necessary repairs and improvements needed at Fire Station #2, 1154 S. 7th Street. A local architect, Sharp Architects, completed the necessary drawings and bid specs for the project. The bids have been received for this project and staff is seeking Council approval to reject all bids, waive competitive bidding, and award a contract to Irving Construction, using the fund balance from the Public Safety Building Fund to pay for this project.

Wow! Reject all the bids? But why?

At the time that the City originally contemplated the renovation project, the budgetary estimation completed determined that the cost should be approximately $200,000.00. That is the sum that has been previously shared with City Council. However, as the project has gone forward into design, the size and scope of the project has expanded slightly to accommodate legal requirements applicable to the construction, predominantly relating to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. The requirement of larger hallways, doorways, and other similar accommodations has increased the square footage, complexity, and resulting cost of the project.

Translation: “Even though we’ll be populating the station with some of the fittest and most able people in the county, we found out we still have to follow federal disability law! Oops! Who knew?”

Of course this also means an expanded price tag. Instead of the bids coming in around $200,000, they ranged from $265,000 to $338,900 (Irving’s was the lowest of seven bids) so “slight expansion” meant at least a 25% increase in the cost of the project. And we simply don’t have the money.

Putting the project back out to bid after forced cost-trimming and budget-juggling would be humiliating, I guess. It isn’t listed as an option. The choices given are to go with Irving on a modified plan or abandon the project entirely.