Friday, December 26, 2014

Bob Dunning: More of a walkover than a race


From page A2 | June 26, 2013 |

So, according to the dizzying spin coming out of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency, the troubling fact that we’re now down to just one bidder on the massive project to bring Sacramento River water to Davis taps is a good thing.

And nevermind that the lone remaining bidder, Colorado-based CH2M Hill just copped a guilty plea to charges of defrauding the federal government out of millions and millions of our tax dollars, having only one bidder on a major project like this is a bad idea even if the last one standing is above reproach.

Water Agency boss Dennis Diemer, using the glass-is-actually-full-even-if-it-looks-empty method of pulling the wool over our eyes, greeted the loss of CDM Smith from the bidding process with unbridled enthusiasm.

Said Diemer: “The DBO (design, build, operate) competition has been narrowed to a single highly-qualified DBO team five weeks ahead of the anticipated schedule.”

Translation: Everyone else dropped out before the July 30 deadline for final bids, so we’re awarding the trophy to CH2M Hill and naming their CEO as Most Valuable Player, with a gala awards banquet to follow.

Added Diemer, putting away his umbrella as the rain continued to fall: “WDCWA will realize approximately $500,000 in savings as a result of the accelerated schedule, saved costs on consultant and staff time that would have been spent evaluating proposals from multiple bidders, and in avoided pre-design fees that would have been paid to bidders submitting a responsive, but not selected proposal.”

Translation: This whole competitive bidding process is a pain in the ass. Now no one can second-guess us about selecting CH2M Hill because there was no one else to award the contract to. And thank God we don’t have to wade through all those detailed bid proposals.

More Diemerisms: “CH2M Hill must still submit a responsive proposal meeting all of the Agency RFP technical, performance and cost requirements by the July 30, 2013 deadline.”

Translation: They have us over a barrel. If they walk, the project is dead.

What Dennis Diemer seems to be telling us is that, sure, Monticello Dam burst overnight, wiping out Winters and Davis and Dollar Hot Dog Day at Raley Field, but the rupture does allow young Coho salmon to swim up Putah Creek to spawn, just like we envisioned.

I mean, why did we initiate a competitive bidding process in the first place if we’re so clearly better off without it?

Fortunately, several members of the Davis City Council that brought us this project have seen through the bluff and the bluster to realize that the lack of competitive bidding on a project this size is not what the voters had in mind when 54 percent of them gave the go-ahead last March.

Councilman Brett Lee stated directly that “The reality is this is bad news, not good news. In no way is it good news.” Lee also wondered out loud what it would take for Davis to simply walk away from the project, adding “I believe that it is the competitive bidding process that would have provided us with an assurance that we are not over-paying for the project.”

Lee’s council colleague, Lucas Frerichs, allowed that he is “concerned about us now being down to one bidder for the water project. Having healthy competition for a project of this size is an important aspect of the process.”

Tellingly, Frerichs noted that he’d “like to see the WDCWA come in front of the council as soon as possible to address this issue,” a sentiment shared by Lee, who wants “objective information as to why they (the WDCWA) believe this process should move forward.”

Even Mayor Joe Krovoza, perhaps the most stalwart supporter of the water project in general, has his doubts about the latest developments.

“I am disappointed that both Violia and CDM expressed strong interest, we worked with them, and then they dropped out. Stinks. I do believe our team was tough but fair on Violia and CDM, and they dropped out. Violia says the process was too long. Hogwash. If they were confident they could win, they’d be bidding. Ditto CDM.”

Yes, the people of this town voted three months ago to give this costly project the green light, which is how the system works. But their vote did not require the city to move forward if the council deems it’s not in the best interest of the citizens of Davis.

It may now be time for the council to rethink its decision.

 — Reach Bob Dunning at





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