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City project attracts just two bids

John Colson

Only two contractors are interested in finishing up a downtown beautification project in Aspen this spring, and both want a lot more money to do the job than city officials expected.

According to the city’s assets manager, Ed Sadler, only two general contractors submitted bids for the Downtown Enhancement Pedestrian Project, which is scheduled to resume this spring.

Although he would not identify the bidders, he said both bids came in at “around $1.6 million” – far higher than the $1 million budgeted for the project by the City Council.

Sadler said he plans to get together with the low bidder to talk about why the bid came in so high “and what I can do to get it down some.”

Sadler said a week ago that he was expecting more like five or six bids on the project.

“It surprised me that on opening day [Feb. 14] we only had two bids in,” he said yesterday, adding that the reason some contractors decided not to bid was because the project is being squeezed into a 9-week period between April 1 and June 3.

“The timing was the problem,” he said.

He said that requiring that the project be completed in a short time-frame troubled contractors. Because too many subcontractors are working at the same time and on top of each others’ particular aspect of the project, mistakes such as the placement of a pipeline too close to where a tree is to be planted, for instance, create significant problems because work must be re-done.

“When you start squeezing general contractors, they’re bound to make some of those mistakes, and they’ve accounted for that in their bids, I’m sure,” Sadler said.

The first phase of the project was done last spring, when work crews ripped up the street surfaces along three blocks of South Mill and Hyman streets, stretching from the intersection at Mill and Main, past the Wheeler Opera House to the intersection of Hyman and Monarch.

The second phase calls for the streets to be torn up again, as well as the sidewalks. The sidewalks are to be widened, and the street is to be lowered as much as a foot in some places to put the street surface at its historic level.

A variety of new, uniform features such as benches, news racks and bicycle racks are to be installed, as well.

The Mill and Hyman section is being done as a sort of pilot project, to see how the public likes it before moving on to give the same treatment to other streets in the downtown core.

If this project is well received, the city has plans to make the same kind of changes along parts of Galena Street, Cooper Avenue and perhaps the block of Hunter Street between Cooper and Durant.

Meanwhile, the city has to figure out what to do about this spring’s project.

“I think we’re going to give staff a little time to look at options,” said Mayor Rachel Richards. Among the options are paring the project down a bit, or changing the work schedule to do one part this spring and another in the fall or even next spring.


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