The Kansas City Council is one vote away from approving the downtown streetcar construction management contract, but that approval remains far from certain.
The council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted 3-1 on Thursday to award the contract to a joint venture of St. Joseph-based Herzog Contracting Corp. and California-based Stacy and Witbeck. The contract goes to the full council Sept. 12 for a vote, but advocates said they are not yet sure it has majority council support.
At issue is who will oversee construction of a 2-mile streetcar route from River Market to close to Union Station, primarily on Main Street. The city still hopes to complete that starter line in 2015.
The Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City and the Greater Kansas City Building and Trades Council want the contract rebid, saying the selection process was subjective and could hurt local union workers’ chances of getting jobs on the project. At least four City Council members continue to question whether the Herzog-Stacy bid was really the lowest and best.
Public Works Director Sherri McIntyre defended the selection team’s recommendation to award the contract to Herzog-Stacy over rival bidder Kiewit-Clarkson Infrastructure Co. She argued that the scoring — which gave substantial points for past experience — was known to all bidders and was fair and that Herzog-Stacy has the best track record for building streetcar systems in a congested urban environment like downtown Kansas City.
Mayor Sly James also urged the committee to support the recommendation and to keep the project momentum going.
He said that the city has “no legal basis to change what we’ve done” and that a delay would only drive up the cost.
Committee members Russ Johnson, Dick Davis and Cindy Circo agreed, while Councilman Jermaine Reed was the lone dissenter. He questioned why Herzog-Stacy wasn’t downgraded in its score for having a much higher change order fee than Kiewit-Clarkson. McIntyre said the city will work hard to minimize change orders.
Herzog’s president, Al Landes, told the committee that the vast majority of the work would be done by Kansas City workers, including many union workers and minorities. He said that at its height, the project would probably have about 100 workers on site.
“We are committed to maximizing opportunities for the local workforce and the local contracting community,” he said.
James said after the committee vote Thursday that he will work hard over the next week to rally at least seven votes needed for approval, but that he is taking nothing for granted and he knows some council members remain adamantly opposed.
“I think this is something we have to do,” James said.