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Lawrence City Commission to consider alternatives to traditional bidding process

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

January 12, 2018


At their meeting Tuesday, Lawrence City Commissioners will decide whether the city should be allowed to use a process that deviates from the standard sealed-bid procedure for future construction projects.

City staff is proposing a charter ordinance — which requires four votes to pass — that would specifically enable the city to utilize alternative construction methods. The charter ordinance is required because state law calls for a sealed-bid process.

Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said she is supportive of adopting the ordinance. She said the traditional design-bid-build process is definitely a great tool, but that the city shouldn’t tie its hands to one method.

“I think we ought to keep our options open for any bidding process that’s accepted by the industry,” said Larsen, adding that the city doesn’t want to close itself off from the highest quality work. “And sometimes that takes different types of bidding methods.”

City staff is recommending that the city consider alternative methods on future projects, which could include the upcoming police headquarters project. Those include several options, such as the Design-Build method, where a designer and contractor team are selected at the beginning of the process based on qualifications and a price set instead of opening the project for bids.

Commissioner Leslie Soden said she has concerns with changing the city charter to accommodate such methods. She said she thinks the Commission is still rebuilding public trust after the controversial Rock Chalk Park project, tax issues with The Oread hotel and the resignation of former mayor Jeremy Farmer.

“I have concerns with changing the city charter to accommodate that,” Soden said. “I think it’s a process that we are able to use now if we choose to.”

The decision regarding the alternate bidding methods originally came before the Commission last month when only four commissioners were present, but it was deferred at the request of outgoing Commissioner Mike Amyx. Amyx said at that time that he is not in favor of the idea, but that it was “probably unfair” for him to vote against it given the circumstances.

As of Friday afternoon, recently seated Commissioner Jennifer Ananda said she is undecided on whether she supports adopting a charter ordinance to allow for alternate construction methods. She said she wants to understand more about the background, and to weigh all potential consequences.

“I think that we as a city can’t be closed off to hearing about alternative methods, and so our job is to consider intended and unintended consequences in making that kind of a decision,” Ananda said. “And so I’m just trying to think through what those could be.”

The City Commission will convene at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


Bill Turner 4 months, 1 week ago

I fail to understand why, if a project is properly specified and designed, that there should ever be any process other than sealed-bid. If the city doesn't want to "...close itself off from the highest quality work" (whatever that means), then it should specify in the design exactly what quality work and materials it desires and put the project out to bid. How can we ever take a contractor's word that they will produce a superior product over another for the same price? Couldn't the taxpayers have gotten a better deal if that same contractor just supplied the product as designed? If there is ever a failure to obtain the desired product out of a sealed-bid process, then it is either the fault of the city for not supplying a proper design or it is the failure of a contractor to follow the design as supplied. In the case of the former, no contractor under any process should be expected to compensate for poor design. If it is the latter, then there is recourse through the courts, if necessary, to make the situation right. There is a reason that the federal government, state governments, and most local governments use a sealed-bid process: it is the only way to ensure that all parties, contractors and citizens alike, are treated equitably and fairly. To use another process exposes the affected population to fraud, waste, and abuse in return for the hope of obtaining subjectively better products. That is not a good deal.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

Either city government set up the "Charter" process for use as necessary OR city government tighten the noose on inspection practices.

Tightening the noose on inspection practices = give city government the authority to cut off further construction immediately once a violation is discovered.

Absolutely pull the building permit NOW and call all concerned parties back in for serious discussions. DO NOT allow the project to proceed. This should apply to all construction projects throughout the city. USD 497 should also be expected to follow this.

As of now the developer/construction team have a laissez faire privilege.

Hire a few more inspectors as a watch dog process.

What comes to mind?

Missing a house and placing it in the wrong place.

The HERE project which left the project without enough parking.

Rock Chalk Park = a repeat offender

Burroughs Creek Trail concrete is chipping along some edges and this is new concrete relatively speaking. Our 64 year old sidewalk is in far better condition relatively speaking as is our "new" 20 year old driveway.

There are others.

Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

"MOVING a house and placing it in the wrong place up near campus."

Inspectors should not have the option as to whether or not a building permit should be pulled.

Do approved site plans mean anything?

Is the low bid the best choice always?

David Holroyd 4 months ago

Just do like choosing a tow company. The city has a revolving door when picking a tow company.

So, therefore , since the only competitiors are Treanor, Werner, Gould Evans, Fritzel and Compton and RD shouldn't be too hard to pick one if a rotation schedule is picked.

Oh, what happened to that Plumber Guido or something like that. Now he needs some competition.

Chris Ogle 4 months ago

It seems to me the city has some "trust issues" with Lawrence taxpayers. Don't change the sealed bid process , enforce compliance from the contractor who is doing the work as specified in the sealed bid process.
If we (City) can't enforce the specs, then fix the enforcement issue.... not the bidding process.

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