Basalt council balks at costly stoplight
BASALT The Basalt Town Council majority balked Tuesday night at installing a stoplight on Highway 82 after a contractor’s bid came in at more than double the expected price.The council decided to try to negotiate a lower price with KECI Colorado Inc., a Denver firm that placed the only bid on the job. If the town cannot get a lower price, the council will consider whether it wants to put the project out for new bids.KECI priced the job at $553,337. An engineering firm that worked on the design anticipated a cost of $263,500.The town budgeted $175,000 for the project and has collected $68,700 from two developers to apply to it. “That still leaves us short about $330,000,” said Town Engineer Larry Thompson.Nevertheless, the town staff advised the council to accept the bid, award the contract and get the stoplight built at the intersection of Highway 82 with Original Road/East Valley this fall. There is no guarantee a new bid will come in lower, Thompson reasoned.The council majority wasn’t willing to pay more than double what was expected.”I’m not comfortable with it at all,” said Councilman Mark Kittle.He was particularly disturbed by a “mobilization” fee of $136,000 that was part of KECI’s bid. The engineer anticipated a $10,000 mobilization fee.”One hundred thirty-six thousand dollars for mobilization? That’s outrageous,” said Councilman Chris Seldin.Kittle and Seldin urged the council to seek new bids, despite protests from neighborhood residents. Resubmitting the project for bids would delay it until 2008.Bonnie Kowar said it was “critical” for the town to install the traffic light before winter rather than risk more serious accidents at the intersection. She also noted that pedestrians using a bus stop on the north side of Highway 82 must scramble across four lanes of high-speed traffic to get to the Midvalley Medical Clinic on the south side. Kowar said she has seen mothers holding babies forced to run across the road.”Do you really want to sit here approving this next spring knowing that there was a fatality [during the winter] that could have been avoided?” Kowar asked.Fred Gannett said there have been three fatal accidents and “multiple” other wrecks at the intersection since he moved to the neighborhood in 1990. “That intersection needs a light, and it needs a light right now,” he said.Tom Newland said that, as a resident of the area, he couldn’t bear the thought of another winter without a stoplight at the location. As a consultant who works on transportation issues in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said he could understand the council’s initial reaction. Newland is helping the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority organize installation of a stoplight on Highway 133 in Carbondale to serve a new park-and-ride lot. That traffic signal bid came in at a similar price, Newland said, and KECI won the bid.”We had the same kind of sticker shock,” Newland said.At the Carbondale project, KECI had a mobilization fee of about $90,000 that RFTA couldn’t understand. When questioned, the contractor said it reflected the high cost of housing its Denver workers in the Roaring Fork Valley.Newland warned the council that delaying the project in hopes for a lower price likely would backfire.”You wait, and it’s going to cost you more, not less,” Newland said. “That’s what kind of environment we’re in right now.”Councilman Gary Tennenbaum agreed: “I don’t feel comfortable enough to throw the project out until next spring,” he said.Tennenbaum, who helps oversee trail construction for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said costs are soaring by the month and that any savings Basalt might obtain through rebidding the project wouldn’t be worth delaying a much-needed stoplight. Resubmitting the project for a bid would delay the project until 2008, according to Thompson.After mulling options, the council compromised. The board directed Thompson to try to negotiate a better price and report back at its Aug. 28 meeting. The council will decide then whether to proceed or resubmit the project for bids.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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