County trying to coordinate contracting for projects to minimize impacts; Denver Water chooses Front Range contractor
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite some improvements in overall relations between Summit County and Denver Water, the county commissioners Tuesday expressed frustration with the lack of cooperation on a project that’s important locally — the enhancement of security measures along Dillon Dam Road that would enable the road to stay open all night.
Additionally, Denver Water will be doing some other work related to the outlet works at the Dam, and the enlargement of Old Dillon Reservoir, set to start this spring, will also require construction activities along the road between Dillon and Frisco.
Assistant county manager Thad Noll traveled to Denver in early April to try and coordinate work on the projects with Denver water in hopes of minimizing impacts to travelers on the road, and to encourage Denver Water to include local contractors in the bidding process for the work. But at the BOCC work session, the commissioners learned that Denver Water was moving ahead with selecting a Denver-based contractor for the security modifications.
“This is when our local businesses really need us to go to bat for them,” said commissioner Dan Gibbs.
“It’s times like this that I question whether we really have a partnership with Denver Water,” said commissioner Thomas Davidson.
As soon as the Tuesday work session ended, the commissioners tried to reach top Denver Water officials to discuss the contracting situation. As of Wednesday afternoon, County manager Gary Martinez expressed continued frustration, saying they still hadn’t heard back from Denver Water.
But by that time, it was already too late. The Denver Board of Water Commissioners accepted the lowest responsive bid for the security enhancements during their Wednesday meeting, according to Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesny. She said Denver Water will continue to work with Summit County on a week-to-week basis to coordinate the construction work for all the projects.
“As a governmental public entity, we have a duty to our ratepayers to spend their dollars wisely. We remain committed to working together with the county to collaborate and discuss important issues and decisions,” Chesny said via email.
She explained that Denver Water is legally obligated to accept the lowest responsive bid:
“The contract for security modifications on Dillon Dam Road was a standard low-bid process used for most public projects. This process was explained to all potential bidders at the outset of the process, and all bidders rely on the bid documents in constructing their bids. Once we have prequalified contractors in a low-bid procurement process, we are legally committed to taking the lowest responsive bid. The contractor selected had the lowest bid and its bid satisfied all the submittal requirements to be considered responsive. If we were to throw out the bids and start over, that would create a number of problems, including a delay in the start of the work, delay in completion, potential impacts to the schedules of the other projects and likely legal issues, as well. Local preferences must be established by law in advance of a bidding process to be valid.
“A very high majority of our contracts follow the low-bid process, with the exception being in specialized areas of work, where we conduct a competitive quality based selection based on a combination of price, experience and project approach. This low-bid process included a Small Minority and Women Business Enterprise (SMWBE) goal of 5 percent participation, and the low-bidder achieved 27.66 percent SMWBE participation.”