AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Tuesday afternoon’s regular meeting of the Amarillo City Council, the council approved an item that will start construction on an improvement project impacting around 3/4 of a mile in east Amarillo that has been discussed since 2014.

The council unanimously voted to consider an award for the trench repair of a water transfer line from the intersection of SE 13th Ave. and Bolton St. to the intersection of SE 27th and Bolton St. The council awarded the construction contract for the trench repair to Amarillo Utility Contractors in the amount of $2,575,395, with the funding made available from water rate revenues.

According to the agenda item, the project is expected to consist of trench and surface repairs above a 48-inch water transfer line along Bolton Street. This will also consist of the removal and replacement of the embedment material above the transfer line along with asphaltic pavement restoration.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Jonas Fuller, an Amarillo resident, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, bringing forward his concerns on the best value bid process for the project. After the bid process began in December 2021, Fuller said it was initially canceled after it was over budget.

“When the project was readvertised for an offer five months later, the size of the project was more extensive, specs were added that increased the project’s cost,” Fuller said. “As a result, the areas of repair increased in size, paving thickness increased, flex base was added and concrete traffic control barriers became a requirement.”

On the re-advertised project, Fuller said that the scoring requirements changed in the best value bid process. This led to the council picking a more expensive option, something which Fuller did not appreciate in this case.

“At a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, the city wants to raise taxes to meet increasing budgets and take on projects that would need funding outside of the tax moneys (being brought) in and inflation is at record high, how does it make sense to spend $656,000 in additional taxpayer funds when it is not necessary,” Fuller said during the public comment portion.

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said the city chose to transition into the best value bidding process years ago, in response to the city’s prior challenges basing bids solely on the lowest price. The best value encapsulates all considerations, Miller said, including safety, the price as well as past experience, providing the best overall value to the community.

“Low price has cost us a lot of money over the years,” he said. “That comes in either projects not being done to specification, materials, possibly time. It’s not just price, it’s the impact on the community.”

In a presentation made to the city council during Tuesday’s meeting, Kyle Schniederjan, the city of Amarillo’s capital projects and development engineering director, said that the bid process was specific to this particular project, emphasizing qualification over the price. According to Schniederjan, Amarillo Utility Contractors was chosen for the project because they conduct their projects in a concise, as well as in an efficient, manner.

“All of these things absolutely have a value to the general public and have a value to the taxpayer,” Schniederjan said during the meeting. “That evaluation is what is intended by the best value bidding process. I believe the recommendation we brought forward achieves that.”

When asked about why this project was bid twice, Schniederjan said that every bid first came in greater than the engineer’s estimate for the project. This resulted in the city’s utilities department making a decision to retool the project. As the department went back to look at the project, they decided to reprioritize the project, with the budget being estimated at $3 million this go around.

Towards the end of the meeting, Amarillo City Councilmember Cole Stanley said he wants to have a future conversation with members of the city council on the bidding process, exploring what scenarios could be better for future projects.

“In the future, is this the best way to move forward as a city in awarding projects?” Stanley said. “I’m not asking an opinion, maybe for a discussion item. Is this just the first time that we may run into this type of an issue and we should look at other types of bids?”

Officials said that during this project, there are expected to be temporary lane closures along Bolton Street. City of Amarillo staff, along with the contractor, is also expected to coordinate with businesses and property owners located adjacent to the project during its duration.