Council Approves Contractor For Downtown Plaza

GERING — A month ago, phase 2 work on the planned Gering Civic Plaza hit a snag as both contractors submitted price bids that busted the city’s estimates. The project is now on track again.

The city engineer’s estimate for the work was $731,822, but low bidder Anderson and Shaw Construction submitted a $956,937 price tag. Almost every feature came in over the city’s estimates.

That sent Gering City Planner Annie Folck and City Engineer Brendan Lilly back to the drawing board to see where some cost savings could be found.

Folck said that by readjusting the original lighting plan, the city was able to deduct $32,500 from the estimate. They also found potential savings on lighting controls and building materials for the planned restrooms.

Folck said they couldn’t guarantee all of the possible savings, but asked council members to approve the project with just the lighting deduction.

“This project has a lot of specialization and there are a limited number of contractors that can do the work,” Folck said. “Higher wages was another factor because we’re using some federal funds.”

While Anderson and Shaw’s bid came in higher than estimated, Gering had actually budgeted a million dollars this year for the project.

“We do have the money in the budget to cover that,” Folck said. “If we move forward with the recommended dollar amount of $924,437, we will still be under what we budgeted for the year.”

She said the funding for the project is coming out of the downtown development fund that generates about $240,000 every year from sales taxes. Currently, it’s the only project for that fund.

Gering Parks Director Amy Seiler and Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Visitors Bureau, also spoke on the project.

Seiler said it would be wise for the city to revisit some of its spending priorities for different parks projects so the city will get the most benefit.

“I think the Gering Civic Plaza is a great opportunity for us to invest in something unique,” she said. It’s extremely important to our parks system, which is one of the best in the area.”

Niedan-Streeks said the concept of a downtown plaza began in 2013 with the creation of the Downtown Revitalization Committee.

“They’ve been committed to this project and what it means to our community and what it will mean for years to come,” she said. “We’re also on a deadline to finish phase 2 of the project. The deadline for the Community Development Block Grant we received has already been extended once. The grant period ends on Sept. 30, so the state won’t extend it again.”

Council members voted 6-2 to accept Anderson and Shaw’s bid to do the work. But members Phillip Holliday and Ben Backus questioned whether Paul Reed Construction, the other bidder, shouldn’t also been given the opportunity to negotiate any potential savings. Both bids were only a few percentage points different.

Folck said Anderson and Shaw was the low bidder and the city can’t negotiate with another company once the sealed bids were opened and made public. Otherwise, they would have to reject all bids and start the process over again.

“Generally speaking, you go with the low bid unless you have justification not to,” said City Attorney Matt Turman. “It’s not fair to the low bidder for you to negotiate with the other company.”

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