The lowest bidder for upcoming projects on 14th Street and a northeast sewer line may not get city contracts under alternatives approved Wednesday by the Bend City Council.

Government agencies typically award contracts based on the lowest bid, so the lowest-priced qualified contractor will get the bid. Oregon law also requires governments to give contracts to the lowest bidder unless they exempt a project or type of project before requesting bids.

Councilors on Wednesday unanimously approved using a competitive bid process, which considers both cost and qualitative measures, such as a contractor’s experience with similar projects, for a 14th Street reconstruction project. The project, which will be funded with $3.5 million from a bond voters approved in 2011, would rebuild 14th Street from the Simpson roundabout to NW Albany Avenue and from Galveston Avenue to Newport Avenue.

These sections have surrounding businesses and homes, and detours would require circuitous routes through neighborhoods, assistant city attorney Elizabeth Oshel said.

“We want a contractor who has proven to be responsive to business and resident concerns,” she said.

The second alternative type of contract, a progressive design-build that has a project’s designer and builder working together early in a project, was approved unanimously for the first segment of a north interceptor sewer line. The line will run from Cooley Road north through Juniper Ridge.

A design-build contract is intended to fast-track construction, allowing construction work to begin sooner on city-owned land that won’t require easements. However, any contract will allow the city to use a different builder if the design-build team doesn’t provide an acceptable price, Oshel said.

“You’re able to separate from a contractor and find someone else to build if you can’t agree on a price,” Oshel said.

Construction on the 14th Street project is expected to begin in April, and the sewer line project is included in the two-year city budget that ends in 2019.

Bend used a design-build type of contract for previous sewer work, including on the 27th Street sewer line that was completed this summer. Mayor Casey Roats said he didn’t hear a single complaint about the miles of pipe that were installed because the contractor on that project did a wonderful job.

“I’ve been really pleased with the results of these alternative biddings,” he said. “For the city and the affected residents and businesses, it has netted the community tremendous results.”

In October, the City Council approved using the design-build alternative for Empire Corridor improvements and Overturf Reservoir rehabilitation.

Bend opted to use alternative contracting options more often following its experience with the low-bid contractor on its still-unfinished sewer treatment plant project, City Manager Eric King wrote in a February letter published in The Bulletin.

The sewer treatment plant expansion was supposed to be done in the summer of 2015 but is still only 85 percent complete.

Washington-based Apollo Inc., the low bidder, received a contract for the $32 million project in 2013. But construction on the project fell almost a year behind schedule, and the city removed Apollo from the project after paying the contractor $24 million.

Apollo and the city of Bend are now locked in an $8 million lawsuit, with a hearing scheduled in Deschutes County Circuit Court later this month. The still-unfinished project has now cost Bend nearly $38 million — $24 million on construction, $10.8 million for engineering and construction management and $2.7 million on consultants and attorneys.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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