On the heels of CDM Smith walking away from the competition for the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project — leaving one bidder left standing to make a proposal for the work — Davis City Councilman Brett Lee has asked agency leaders to come before the council Tuesday to explain why they believe the city should still expect an advantageous bid from the last design-build-operate contractor, CH2M Hill.
When the news broke about CDM dropping out last week, Dennis Diemer, general manager of the water agency, released a statement explaining that this development would save the agency about $500,000 because it could forego the costly end of the bidding process.
Water agency and Davis city leaders also have maintained that the competition was achieved through the bidding process up to this point and that the stringent requirements set in the request for proposals document will keep the cost of the project 20 percent lower than engineers originally estimated.
But Lee said he is concerned that the final price tag for the project, which was supposed to be driven down by the competition between bidders when they submitted their final proposals for the project work in July, would not be as low as it could have been had two or more contracting teams remained in contention.
The city has decided to rethink the contract it signed with techDAVIS earlier this year that led to the hiring of Rob White, the city’s new chief innovation officer.
Originally, techDAVIS, a nonprofit organization started earlier this year by local technology executives, was to pay for half of White’s salary and benefits for three years, totaling $120,000 per year, while the city paid the other half.
White, the former economic development director for the city of Livermore, was hired to take charge of economic development for the city.
But it appears that City Manager Steve Pinkerton is concerned about the public perception of a private organization being tied to his employee.
Instead of the original agreement terms, Pinkerton will propose to the council Tuesday that the annual $120,000 contribution made by techDAVIS be put into the city’s general fund to be dedicated to developing a “broader public/ private partnership” rather than into White’s pocket.
“Even though this employee’s work is directed solely by the city manager and based on goals set forth by the City Council, the city of Davis would like to sever the current agreement and work toward a broader agreement that does not require the techDAVIS funds to be allocated to a specific staff position,” Pinkerton wrote in his staff report to the council.
The change would remove “any financial connection between the funding of this position and the business community, thereby removing any perceived conflicts of interest between the position and the mission of the chief innovation officer,” he added.
Last month, the managing director of techDAVIS, David Morris, and city staff came under much public scrutiny over a proposed deal between the city and another entity controlled by Morris, Capitol Corridor Ventures. The deal would have developed land on the periphery that had been slated for preservation into a business park.
While council members saw great value in the deal in terms of economic development, the project was voted down on a 3-2 vote because of the poor process. City staff first put the controversial issue on the consent calendar — where items council members are not expected to discuss are normally found — and presented the deal to the public only days before it could be either accepted or rejected.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash