Aspen’s Burlingame Ranch goes out for a ‘rebid’
ASPEN – The Aspen City Council voted Monday to give three architectural firms vying for the design work at a city-owned housing development another crack at the bid.
The council voted 3-2 to allow Boulder-based Oz Architecture, and two Aspen firms, Poss Architecture + Planning and Charles Cunniffe Architects, to clarify their proposals and possibly adjust their rates to design the final phases of Burlingame Ranch. The affordable housing development is located off Highway 82 across from Buttermilk.
Giving finalists an opportunity to adjust their bids after the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process has closed appears to be unprecedented.
The move was in response to controversy over a selection committee’s recommendation to select Oz over a local firm. There also were questions raised as to whether the firms’ proposals were comparable in their scope of services, their team of consultants’ rates and hours, and other nuances.
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Some people also questioned whether Oz underbid the project and as a result, won’t provide the same level of services of Poss – specifically in civil engineering and site planning.
The majority of the council last month informally decided to award a $1.6 million contract to Oz, which is roughly $1 million less than what Poss bid.
However, Stephen Holley, a principal with Poss, argued the difference is lower, given the scope of services his firm and development team plans to deliver.
Poss’ bid was $2.7 million to design the remaining 167 multi-family units at Burlingame, where there are currently 91 units built. The buildout at Burlingame involves four architectural types and 20 buildings.
Some council members said they were concerned about the discrepancies in rates and hours between the two firms, which widely fluctuate.
Scott Miller, the city’s capital asset manager and a member of the selection committee, said the difference indicates that Oz can do the work for less.
“One team is more efficient than the other,” he said, adding Oz’s rates average out to be lower than Poss based on the number of hours the firm estimates it will take to complete the work. “One team is hungrier than the other.”
Holley made a last-ditch pitch to council as to why Poss deserves the job, and pointed out that Oz’s fee rates appear lower after the firm was asked to clarify its hours and level of effort since the Jan. 19 meeting. He added that it appears Oz’s rates are between 13 and 50 percent less than its original proposal.
City officials who were on the selection committee – which also had one member of the public serve on it – responded that Oz was not given an opportunity to adjust its rates or proposal.
Holley said Poss wasn’t given an opportunity to clarify its proposal after the RFP process was closed but Oz was.
Poss designed the first phase of Burlingame, and Holley argued that the firm has a better understanding of what it will take to successfully complete the project, especially given the topographical challenges of the site. Therefore, the scope of services translates into a higher price.
“Our method was based on lessons learned from phase one,” Holley said. “The devil is in the details.”
Kelly Davis, managing partner for Oz, reaffirmed to the council the company’s commitment to sufficiently completing the project on time and on budget, as the contract and RFP requires. The contract is based on a fixed fee, and no additional charges can be added without council approval.
But now Oz’s competitors get another chance to bid the job and readjust fees based on the scope of services they propose to offer.
Councilmen Steve Skadron and Dwayne Romero, who both were prepared to vote against awarding Oz the contract and grant it to Poss in the future, said they were against opening the process up for a rebid because it taints the city’s competitive bidding process.
“We would be changing the rules of the game,” Romero said, comparing it to instituting overtime in a football game when it’s already over. “It’s wholly inconsistent.”
Romero favored Poss because he said he believes the firm has a better grasp of site planning and helping gain voter approval through the public process. Skadron also had similar views.
Councilmen Derek Johnson and Torre were prepared to vote in favor of awarding Oz the contract, citing the savings to taxpayers.
After Mayor Mick Ireland made a motion to let the firms respond to the city’s questions in essentially what will be a rebid, Torre and Johnson voted in favor, along with Ireland.
But that decision didn’t come until after two failed votes. Ireland’s first motion asked for a further vetting of the bids, but it lost 3-2, with Torre, Skadron and Romero voting against it. Then Torre called the question to approve the Oz contract, which also failed 3-2, with Skadron, Ireland and Romero voting against it.
Eventually, Torre flipped and voted in favor of Ireland’s motion to avoid a deadlock and further the process. The final vote was 3-2 with Ireland, Johnson and Torre voting for the motion.
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