Temecula City Council "reluctantly" awarded Granite Construction Company—against which the city spent "millions" fighting Liberty Quarry—a $4.77-million contract Tuesday night to tear down and replace the Main Street bridge in Old Town Temecula.
The Council was split on its decision to give the work to Granite after spending seven years engaged in a tug of war over the quarry land. The final vote on the bridge contract was 4-1, with Councilman Ron Roberts voting no.
Initially, Roberts, along with councilmen Jeff Comerchero and Chuck Washington, opted to abstain from the vote.
“This is an especially difficult issue for me—I think it is for all of us,” Comerchero said. “But after serving on a subcommittee with [Councilwoman Maryann Edwards] fighting Liberty Quarry for seven years, and Granite Construction being an adversary in that process, you naturally develop certain opinions and theories about who you are dealing with...I have a very difficult time tonight pushing the yes button on this item.”
Comerchero acknowledged Granite was the lowest responsive bidder of nine companies, which under state regulations mandates the Watsonville, CA-based company be awarded the contract.
“So I thought about it a lot and one thing that I’ve found is that, in the policies and procedures of voting as we sit up here on the council, if there are ever times when you feel that you can not be objective, for one reason or another, the correct vote is an abstention. And so that is what I’ll be doing tonight, I will be abstaining from this item on the grounds that I just don’t feel that I can be objective in terms of who the contract is being awarded to," Comerchero said.
Facing a stalemate, council members conferred with Public Works Director Greg Butler and City Attorney Peter Thorson as to what would happen if the city was to rebid the project.
“In cases like these...what flexibility does the city have?” Edwards asked. “Can we just deny something because we might not like someone? Or like someone’s company?”
Thorson said the city’s flexibility was “fairly narrow.”
“The bidder has to be a responsible bidder and it is not just that you like them or that person or that company is capable of doing the job,” Thorson said. “You have to be very specific if you are going to say they’re not.”
Thorson said another issue was that the company receiving the contract had to fulfill state and federal requirements, as 95 percent of the project is being funded by a federal grant.
“There’s probably 40 pages of strings attached that we have to deal with,” Thorson said.
According to Butler, if no decision was made, the bids would expire and the money would go back into a federal pool to be redistributed to any number of projects across the U.S.
“Without starting that invoice for that federal grant the funds become deobligated,” Butler said.
A majority of the council then agreed they had little choice in the matter.
Mayor Mike Naggar pointed out that the bridge is tied to phase 2 of the Murrieta Creek Flood Control Project, which was recently reinvigorated by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“So you are really getting into a conundrum,” Naggar said.
“Nobody wants to award this contract to a company that treated the citizens of Temecula the way that they did. But in all practicality, there is no getting around the process. The bridge has to be built, there’s nothing that is going to prevent Granite from coming back in and being the low bidder again,” Naggar said.
“So short of us saying we don’t want the $4-million grant money—and replacing the Main Street bridge—we really don’t have a lot of options here. But I think that we’ve done what we wanted to do, and that was make a statement that we extremely, extremely reluctantly grant this contract. And if we weren’t compelled by state law, we wouldn’t be granting this contract to this company.”
The project is slated to take 10 months to complete, according to city documents. The contract states that “time is of the essence.”
Edwards voted yes “reluctantly,” saying the bridge, “undermined by the huge rainstorm we had and 2005 and undermined by previous ones,” really needed to be replaced.
“I have had to come to terms with the fact that we would have to work with this company,” Edwards said.
Regardless of the difficult spot Council felt they were put in, Naggar said of benefit were the jobs the project would provide locally.
For Granite, it means many of its local employees will be able to work in the city they call home.
"We have a number of employees who live in the city so they are looking forward to building this bridge in their community," said Gary Johnson, aggregate resource manager for Granite.
The company expects to begin work on the bridge within 60 days, Johnson told Patch Wednesday.
Another local project recently completed by Granite, a nationwide construction conglomerate, was the California Oaks/Interstate 15 Interchange for the city of Murrieta.
The Temecula project calls for tearing out the existing concrete Main Street bridge and rebuilding it with a one-piece, prefabricated steel truss.
"We look forward to building this bridge and continuing to build bridges with the city as we go forward," said Johnson, who did not attend Tuesday's Council meeting.
The new bridge will be adorned with decorative components and lighting that tie in with the Old Town theme, the money for which—about 5 percent of the total cost of the project—will come from development impact fees, according to city officials.
As for the aggregate needed for the job, Johnson said it will need to be trucked in from a San Diego County quarry and one near Corona.
"The area still has a shortage."