A deep pothole is seen on West 20th Street on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in downtown Cheyenne. The Cheyenne City Council’s Public Services Committee heard two proposals Wednesday related to hiring private contractors to fill potholes by Nov. 1, but declined to vote on both. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Members of the Cheyenne City Council’s Public Services Committee on Wednesday declined to recommend a pothole repair contract whose bid was solicited under Mayor Marian Orr’s emergency procurement memorandum.

The contract under consideration – a $250,000 award to Simon Contractors for pothole repair – did not get to a vote. The motion died for lack of a second.

Although the item comes out of committee with no recommendation, the full council will still consider the contract during its meeting Monday night.

Orr issued a memorandum Aug. 9 stating she would use emergency spending powers to procure a private contract for street patching, with a maximum budget of $250,000 to come from the city’s fifth-penny sales tax funds.

According to a city memorandum, requests for quotes went to Simon, Knife River and STC Construction with a bid submission deadline of Aug. 20.

Simon’s original bid submission was $402,132, while Knife River submitted a bid price of $767,246. STC did not submit a bid.

According to the memo, city officials entered into direct negotiations with Simon, the lowest bidder. The scope of the project “was revised to align with project funding availability.” Simon’s revised bid price was $249,999.

The negotiations did not end in time for the measure to be considered by Finance Committee members Tuesday. The item was not on Wednesday’s published agenda, but was considered under “other items for the agenda.”

Vicki Nemecek, the city’s public works director, told committee members that issuing an emergency spending memorandum is “the only avenue available to make purchases or orders of an immediate nature.”

“It’s not the word I would use if I had an option all the time, but it is the only option for procurement outside the normal timeline,” she said.

Nemecek told committee members that this was only the third time in her 10 years as director that the emergency procurement designation has been used: renovating the bathrooms in the Municipal Court area of city hall to Americans with Disability Act standards, hiring two contractors to assist with snow removal following the March blizzard and this pothole repair project.

“I followed the processes in the purchasing manual each time in order to address the situation,” she said.

Councilman Scott Roybal asked about an $80,000 item on Simon’s bid marked as “traffic control.”

Nemecek explained that was a safety item that includes cones, signs and other items designed to protect workers on the job.

According to Orr’s Aug. 9 memorandum, the emergency exists “due to an unusually wet spring season resulting in a significantly higher number of potholes throughout the city.”

With the Street and Alley Division of the Public Works Department shorthanded following a string of retirements and difficulty in hiring new staff given the tight job market, Orr’s memo said the Engineering Department recommended a private contractor be hired to complete the work by Nov. 1.

Street and Alley employees are not only responsible for repairing and maintaining 300 miles of roadways, they are also responsible for maintaining the city’s storm water drainage system.

Nemecek said a crew of 13 employees was currently working on Yellowstone Road and Central Avenue at night to keep traffic flowing. That work will last about two weeks, she said.

Crews will also work on 24th Street as long as weather holds, as well as the Ames Avenue underpass, she said.

The emergency procurement powers allow Orr to bypass approval by City Council and the normal bidding process. But by ordinance, the mayor’s office is normally able to spend up to $35,000 for repairs and other purchases without approval.

“There were two thoughts on the process,” Roybal said after the meeting. “One is an emergency, and two, because it’s over $35,000 and should go through the council. I believe in transparency. I’m not saying the emergency part wasn’t because it’s been on the front page of the news, but still I believe it should have come before us.”

The emergency procurement process will likely be a topic when council members deliberate the contract Monday.

Nemecek told committee members she “only attempted to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and provide a safe transportation system to the traveling public.”

“We did our best to address the situation as it existed,” Nemecek told committee members. “When it became apparent that Public Works could not provide the services as necessary to prepare the roads for the coming winter, I and the city engineer took immediate action to remedy the situation.”

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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