Streetcar management contract moves forward

By Joe Lambe

A city council committee on Thursday voted to advance the construction management contract for the downtown streetcar system.

Some leading labor unions, a rival contractor, and some council members oppose the contract, which now goes to the full council for consideration next week.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed it 3-1 after Mayor Sly James and city public works officials spoke for it and some union leaders against it.

The city staff chose non-union Herzog Contracting Corp. of St. Joseph and Stacy and Witbeck of California to manage construction.

With a pre-construction bid of $50,000, the two were the lowest bidders by far but a complicated bidding procedure left local groups questioning the choice.

Councilman Jermaine Reed voted against the contract and said it could mean city workers will not get millions of dollars in construction work.

Ed DeSoignie, director of the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, said the complex bidding process was subjective and the matter should be rebid in a conventional manner.

“We’re asking for a level playing field,” he said, “a process that leaves no question as to who the lower bidder is.”

Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre said a nine-member group agreed on scoring the bids.

“It was consensus, there was nobody pushing anything,” she said. “The scoring came out where they were at.”

Points were given to Herzog and Stacy because they have extensive experience doing huge transit projects and know the problems that arise, she said.

Al Landes, president of Herzog, said the two have done $2 billion worth of streetcar projects.

“This is not our first rodeo – we’ve done this in city after city,” he said.

They will work out project labor agreements with local workers that provide them with much work, he said.

Mayor Sly James said further delay would increase costs and cause federal transportation officials to question the competence of the city.

“The mere fact that somebody lost cannot be the basis of changing the process,” he said. “If we do that, we become arbitrary and capricious and that is a dangerous, dangerous road to go down.”

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