A deep pothole is seen on West 20th Street on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in downtown Cheyenne. The Cheyenne City Council’s Public Services Committee heard two proposals Wednesday related to hiring private contractors to fill potholes by Nov. 1, but declined to vote on both. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – After a lengthy discussion, Cheyenne City Council members on Monday tabled the issue of a pothole repair contract whose bid was solicited under Mayor Marian Orr’s emergency procurement memorandum.

Council members voted 6-3 to table consideration of a $250,000 award to Simon Contractors for pothole repair. Along with Orr, council members Ken Esquibel and Pete Laybourn voted against tabling the issue. Councilman Bryan Cook was absent from the meeting.

Orr issued a memorandum Aug. 9 stating she would use emergency spending powers to procure a private contract for street patching, with a maximum budget of $250,000 to come from the city’s fifth-penny sales tax funds.

According to a city memorandum, requests for quotes went to Simon, Knife River and STC Construction with a bid submission deadline of Aug. 20.

Simon’s original bid submission was $402,132, while Knife River submitted a bid price of $767,246. STC did not submit a bid.

According to the memo, city officials entered into direct negotiations with Simon, the lowest bidder. The scope of the project “was revised to align with project funding availability.” Simon’s revised bid price was $249,999.

“With the fact that it was tabled, it essentially makes the work un-doable,” Orr said after the meeting. “By the time it gets back to the council, the contractor may or may not be able to fit it into his work. We’ll just see from here. We are speculating that the work won’t be done this season.”

A city scope of work document states that “potholes designated for repair will be prioritized and marked by the city Engineer’s Office, and efforts will be made to regionalize groups of repairs to minimize travel between locations.”

No list of potential pothole repair sites was offered by city staff Monday.

Council President Rocky Case, who proposed the motion to table, said after the meeting that his intent with tabling the contract was not to kill the measure, but there were too many questions left unanswered about the process.

“There was a whole host of questions that weren’t asked and answered in terms of this bid process,” Case said. “There’s been a deviation of normal procedure. If there is a true emergency, which is essentially the procedure that was used to launch this process – back in early August – I would suspect there is a plan in place in terms of which potholes are going to be fixed and what areas have priority.”

City Attorney Michael O’Donnell told council members that according to his recollection of Robert’s Rules of Order, tabling an issue without setting a specific amount of time means that council members would need a motion and vote to take the measure off the table at the next meeting before consideration.

Vicki Nemecek, the city’s public works director, told Public Services Committee members last week that issuing an emergency spending memorandum is “the only avenue available to make purchases or orders of an immediate nature.”

According to Orr’s Aug. 9 memorandum, the emergency exists “due to an unusually wet spring season resulting in a significantly higher number of potholes throughout the city.”

The emergency procurement powers allow Orr to bypass approval by City Council and the normal bidding process. But by ordinance, the mayor’s office is normally able to spend up to $35,000 for repairs and other purchases without approval.

With the Street and Alley Division of the Public Works Department shorthanded following a string of retirements and difficulty in hiring new staff given the tight job market, Orr’s memo said the Engineering Department recommended a private contractor be hired to complete the work by Nov. 1.

Street and Alley employees are not only responsible for repairing and maintaining 300 miles of roadways, they are also responsible for maintaining the city’s stormwater drainage system.

Nemecek said last week that a crew of 13 employees was working on Yellowstone Road and Central Avenue at night to keep traffic flowing. That work will last about two weeks, she said.

Crews will also work on 24th Street as long as weather holds, as well as the Ames Avenue underpass, she said.

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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