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11/16/2012
Council: BAM gets Bawden

By ANDREW SHEELER

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan City Council voted to award a $685,300 Bawden Street Apartments demolition contract to BAM, LLC, but not without reservations.

The Council signaled, at its Nov. 1 meeting, that it intended to award the abatement contract to BAM despite other bidding contractors scoring higher in the Council-designated approval process. While price was a factor in the consideration, the scoring committee also considered such things as work history and "project narrative." The Council’s decision to disregard that process led to an appeal by Anchorage-based contractor Central Environmental Inc.

Central Environmental’s bid was for $687,297, but it scored higher in other criteria than BAM. In addition, the company alleged that BAM had filed an incomplete bid with the city because it failed to include mention of a previous EPA violation related to a previous demolition process in which the company played a part. In that case, BAM was a subcontractor to Bicknell Inc., which was hired to demolish the old Best Western Landing building. The Environmental Protection Agency determined the building had been improperly demolished because there was uncontained asbestos. The EPA issued a $33,000 fine in that case, according to an EPA statement.

Council Member Marty West asked Brad Finney, of BAM, to explain what had happened.

"Our understanding was that we were going into a building that was fully abated," Finney said. When that turned out not to be the case, "we all got busted on the deal," he said.

Finney said fines and violations were a common occurrence when federal regulators get involved.

"I don’t think we were wrong in not putting it out there (in the bid submission)," he said.

Though Council Member Matt Olsen voted in favor of the intent to award at the Nov. 1 meeting, he said Thursday he was concerned about what the Council did in discounting its scoring method.

"We said we were going to follow a process," he said.

Council Member Robert Sivertsen said that while he appreciated the scoring committee’s input, the final decision rested with the Council. Council Member Dick Coose added, "I think we followed the process."

Coose said that BAM was the lowest bidder, and that was the most important factor. He also criticized the scoring-committee process.

"Anyone that’s a good writer can juggle the process," Coose said, adding that it was vulnerable to "manipulation."

The Council voted 5-2 in favor of rejecting Central Environmental’s appeal and awarded the contract to BAM. Olsen and Council Member K.J. Harris voted no.

"We have someone to knock down that building. Finally," said City Mayor Lew Williams III.

The Council also voted unanimously to reject an appeal from Construction Group International, of Woodinville, Wash., which alleged that the city’s electronic bid submission process had prevented the company from submitting all the necessary forms.

The Council voted by hand to defer the repeal of the city’s boat tax until it enters budget discussions. The Council previously had voted in favor of the repeal, but the motion required a second reading. The hand vote to defer was 4-3, with Sivertsen, Coose and Council Member Sam Bergeron voting no. The deferment came at the request of Olsen.

"We’re considering something that’s going to impact our budget ... in the tune of $50,000," Olsen said.

In his closing comments, Bergeron said he was unhappy at the lack of discussion before the Council voted to defer on the boat tax. He said the Council’s relationship with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is very important, and the Council’s refusal to join it in repealing the boat tax could send it the wrong message.

Because the borough collects the boat tax for both the city and the borough, it also would be unethical, Bergeron said, to continue requiring the borough to collect on behalf of the city when it no longer does so for itself.

West said she wasn’t opposed to repealing the tax, but that the more appropriate time to discuss that was during the budget discussions.

The Council also voted unanimously Thursday to:

• Approve the 2012-to-2014 contract with the Ketchikan Professional Firefighters Association. The approximate value of the deal is $113,946 and covers salary and benefits increases for an estimated 25 people, according to City Manager Karl Amylon. Olsen disclosed before voting that the firefighters’ union endorsed him in his unsuccessful House District 33 race.

• Approve the 2014 community capital projects priority list to be sent to the Legislature for consideration.

Amylon and Williams both said they would attend the Monday meeting of the Assembly in order to advocate for its support of the Whitman Lake hydroelectric project.

At deadline, the Council entered into executive session to discuss contract negotiations with the Public Safety Employees Association. Williams did not participate in the session because a family member is a police officer.