Seventh and Main gets reluctant OK |

Seventh and Main gets reluctant OK

Janet Urquhart

Cringing at a price tag that is $300,000 over budget projections, the Aspen City Council nonetheless approved a $2.147 million construction contract Monday for the Seventh and Main housing project.

Councilman Jim Markalunas balked at the higher price and cast the sole dissenting vote.

“I think this is just a case of being ripped off,” he said. “This affordable housing project has become unaffordable.”

Councilman Tom McCabe also struggled with the price, though he voted to approve the contract.

“I just feel this isn’t good enough. On the other hand, it isn’t that far off,” he said.

Rebidding it, noted Mayor Rachel Richards, is not likely to produce a better outcome.

“I’ve been through this before with the Snyder project and did not watch the numbers go down,” she said, referring to the affordable housing project built on Aspen’s east side.

Fenton Construction of Aspen was the only one of five interested contractors to submit a bid for the 11-unit housing project, to be built at the corner of Seventh and Main streets. The company’s initial bid, of $2.6 million, has been whittled down through negotiations, according to housing office staffers.

While the quality of the project has not been compromised, some safeguards usually included in the city’s construction contracts have been dropped to save money, City Attorney John Worcester warned the council.

Among other things, the city is not requiring performance and warranty bonds, a second year of warranty on components in the project, and bonds for maintenance and labor, he said.

“It’s pretty much at the city’s risk,” Worcester said.

Instead of some of the bonding usually required of contractors, Fenton will provide a $250,000 line of credit, according to Lee Novak, project manager for the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.

Should the company fail to complete the project, the housing office would collect that money to bridge the gap until another contractor could be hired, he said.

“This alternative form of insurance provides enough insurance for the city,” Novak said.

The city’s strict bond requirements are one reason it has had trouble attracting bidders on a variety of projects, according to Ed Sadler, the city’s assets manager.

City officials plan to meet with contractors and design firms this week to find out why the city can’t bid projects successfully, he said.

Work on the project is slated to begin Aug. 1.

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