Council balks at two-way street contract for non-Napa firm

City staff is told to work out a solution for downtown construction
2013-10-16T16:50:00Z 2013-11-18T15:41:54Z Council balks at two-way street contract for non-Napa firmCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
October 16, 2013 4:50 pm  • 

Saying they had concerns about the lack of local participation, the Napa City Council chose not to award a nearly $1 million construction contract Tuesday night for downtown’s two-way streets conversion to a San Leandro-based company.

Council members said they were conflicted about awarding the contract to a highly qualified electrical company recommended by staff because a Napa-based contractor was also vying for the contract.

“I’m really torn here with this issue about this very qualified electrical contractor ... and then a (local) contractor who has shown the experience to interact with the businesses and the residents and the city on ... big impact projects in our community,” Councilman Peter Mott said. “That’s the biggest part of my struggle tonight.”

City staff recommended the contract for making First and Second streets two-way between Main and Jefferson streets be awarded to St. Francis Electric, of San Leandro, rather than G.D. Nielson Construction Inc., of Napa, because the former has more experience in electrical work than does G.D. Nielson’s proposed subcontractor.

Electrical work accounts for about 78 percent of the project and was therefore the prime determinant in the selection, according to city staff.

“Based on the qualifications submitted to us, the St. Francis team has superior signal experience,” said Julie Lucido, a senior civil engineer with the city.

Staff said St. Francis, which received its contracting license in 1977, listed experience in projects ranging in cost from $300,000 to $10 million. Additionally, the city has successfully used this company in signal and electrical work.

G.D. Nielson’s electrical subcontractor, the Cotati-based DC Electric, received its license in 2010 and has no experience with the city. Lucido said DC Electric provided no examples of its completed projects and when she did further research, she was unable to find comparable work.

“They were just apples and oranges when we went to comparison for this specific aspect of the project,” Lucido said.

The to-be contracted work includes:

• Modification of six traffic signal systems at six intersections

• Installation of one pedestrian crossing signal

• Construction of street and sidewalk improvements

• Creation of an eastbound left turning pocket at First and Main

• Public outreach

In addition to using DC Electric for the signal work, G.D. Nielson would have subcontracted additional work to Vallejo-based R&R Maher Construction Company, Napa engineering firm Chaudhary & Associates Inc., and Y&C Transportation Consultants Inc. of Sacramento.

St. Francis would have subcontracted non-electrical work to Ghilotti Bros. Inc., of San Rafael, and Ruettgers & Schuler Civil Engineers, of Bakersfield.

City staff said they have full faith in G.D. Nielson and know it is a good company, but opted for St. Francis because the vast majority of the work is electrical and they believe its qualifications are superior in this area.

“We know what a fine contractor Nielson is and it wasn’t a decision that was made lightly,” city Public Works Director Jack LaRochelle said. “We were looking at qualifications.”

Council members said they were not concerned with the record, or lack thereof, of G.D. Nielson’s proposed subcontractor.

“Helping local companies is important, but at the same time, we can’t compromise the quality of the work,” said Councilman Alfredo Pedroza, who said he made a phone call to DC Electric. “I don’t think we’re compromising the work.”

When he is presented with two qualified companies, Councilman Scott Sedgley said he will choose the local firm.

Though the work is largely electrical, public and business outreach will be an important part of the project and this is an area in which the city knows G.D. Nielson shines, Mott said. The company has worked on several projects with the city, most recently the Napa 9/11 Memorial Garden.

Staff said there may be future opportunities for G.D. Nielson downtown. After First and Second streets are opened to two-way traffic between Main and Jefferson, the city plans to open Third and Fourth streets up to two-way traffic. The second project will involve more concrete work.

Additionally, there are future plans to do streetscape work on First and, in a few years, the city intends to install roundabouts on First and Second streets at California Boulevard.

The council opted to continue the issue to a later meeting to give staff time to come up with a “win-win” solution, in the words of Mayor Jill Techel.

The council did not provide much direction as to what that solution should be, though members suggested finding a way to include G.D. Nielson in the project or set up a process to give local companies a preference in future construction work.

On Wednesday, LaRochelle said he hopes this will not delay the project he would like to see completed by Memorial Day 2014. He said he will be reaching out to both St. Francis and G.D. Nielson and will try to bring a more amenable recommendation to the council as soon as possible.

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(4) Comments

  1. ROSEG1
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    ROSEG1 - October 17, 2013 6:11 am
    I have ALOT of concern about this due to the fact.. The Hotel downtown with their dang cars and buses blocking the streets all the time.. What is the City going to address this issue.. I am tired of having to sit in traffic because the darn tour bus is blocking the street . ( DOUBLE PARKED). The hotel parking also double parks.. This is illegal why should they NOT get tickets just like the residence.
  2. PracticalMind
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    PracticalMind - October 17, 2013 11:42 am
    GD Nielson is a great contractor. They have done hundred of projects in the City over the years and they ALWAYS STAND BY THEIR WORK. It great to see that the Council is really looking at the opportunities to keep these dollars local. Every dollar that stays in Napa County circulates up to five times before it leaves the community. I hope the Napa County Board of Supervisors follows the City lead.
  3. MyWrites
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    MyWrites - October 18, 2013 9:59 pm
    A very good reason to leave this entire fiasco by the wayside and keep the streets as they are - saving the public considerable expense.
  4. Harry W Hellam II
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    Harry W Hellam II - October 31, 2013 12:32 pm
    Think again about the two way streets downtown. As previously stated, we have tour busses and delivery trucks blocking First Street now. If we were to make those downtown streets two way, we would have traffic backed up from Franklin St. to the river on a daily basis. It didn't occur to me until I was having lunch on Alvarado St. in Monterey a couple of weeks ago. As we were eating, one of those huge beverage trucks pulled up and double parked to make some deliveries. He remained there for about 20 to 25 minutes, during which time the traffic behind him simply moved over into the other lane and traffic moved smoothly. Now picture this same event with two way traffic. The truck would have stopped and all the traffic behind him would have been stuck until he finished his deliveries, because the oncoming traffic would have prevented passing his truck.

    Before we spend a lot of money on something that is bound to fail, go back to the drawing board and fix it on paper first.
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