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More structure, less glitz planned for Streetscape phase

$300,000 shortfall created by previous bids, director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn residents can expect a less fancy phase 2 of the Streetscape project. Streetscape is a street beautification and improvement project connecting Old Town and Downtown Auburn. Phase 2 is scheduled to run from the edge of Central Square down to Pine Street. In a unanimous vote Monday night the Auburn City Council, acting as the Auburn Urban Development Authority, approved rejecting the three bids the city received for the project and scaling the project back to meet its $1 million budget. “When we originally estimated the project, we based it on bid quantities and unit price that were reflected from the first phase,” said Bernie Schroeder, director of the Auburn Public Works Department. “We found that actually our estimate for the scope of the work that we had estimated for the first phase was considerably lower than the bids we received.” Schroeder said the city received three bids from Gabe Mendez, Inc. of Newcastle, Cook Engineering, Inc. of Rancho Cordova and Westcon Construction Corporation of Newcastle. The bids ranged in price from $1.32 million to $1.38 million. The city estimated the project to cost $1.09 million, so the bids left a $300,000 shortfall in the project’s budget, Schroeder said. As a result of the authority’s vote, the Public Works Department is now redesigning the project and preparing to send it out to bid again, Schroeder said. Schroeder said the main goal of the project now is to build the infrastructure and groundwork, but leave out some of the fancier aspects seen in phase 1 in the Central Square area. “We haven’t finalized this revised design if you will … but we are definitely looking at doing all the undergrounding of the overhead utility lines,” she said. Schroeder said the project would also now include storm drain rehabilitation, sidewalk replacement, replacement of a water line and decorative streetlights. There are 26 streetlights in Streetscape phase 1 and eight are planned for phase 2. The lights are estimated to cost $9,200 each, Schroeder said. More decorative items such as inlaid brick, granite tiles, landscaping, new trash receptacles and a publication rack are being put on the back burner for now, Schroeder said. “We are looking at just trying to get the ground work, those things that have to go in before some of the more decorative features,” Schroeder said. “The idea is that we move forward quickly so we get the things that have to do with the earth work. The undergrounding of the overhead power lines are probably the most important in this phase. The other elements are one of those things that could be added as time goes on.” With two other major redevelopment projects already going forward, the Old Town Firehouse upgrade and Old City Hall rehabilitation, Streetscape phase 2 can’t go over budget because the extra funds would have to come from somewhere other than redevelopment monies, Schroeder said. “There already has been a commitment of these funds, so we knew with Streetscape phase 2 we were looking at a $1 million dollar budget, and now we have to come back to reality and scope the work to that budget,” she said. Even with the possibility of the state absorbing redevelopment funds, Schroeder said Public Works hopes the construction would be done by the fall. “I’m very optimistic,” she said. “The schedule is such that we should be hopefully awarded in mid April and starting construction in the middle of May right after Amgen. There is some sensitivity to that event.” Mayor Bill Kirby said Tuesday he asked staff why the city couldn’t just go with the lowest bidder for the redesigned project rather than starting the bidding process all over again. “Our city attorney explained fairly clearly all the bids were close and they were all about $300,000 more than we wanted,” Kirby said. “The city attorney said if we went with the lowest bidder … the other people who bid would, very rightfully so, claim … they had a right to bid to it, and we might open ourselves to lawsuits, which we don’t want to do.” Councilman Kevin Hanley said Tuesday he hopes to see the project move forward in a cost-effective way. “Generally, my goal is to try to keep the redevelopment money here in Auburn on a project the Auburn residents would like rather than giving it to the state,” Hanley said. “We have to be very prudent with these tax dollars, construct a Streetscape project that Auburn residents will enjoy and not have any cost overruns that will cause layoffs or other declines in essential city services.” Councilman Keith Nesbitt said he think it’s only fair for the city to re-bid the project rather than just awarding it to the lowest bidder. “I’m just hoping the bidders will be patient with us and that they will agree to bid again,” Nesbitt said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com