April 20, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 22
Council asks staff to continue Brook Street bridge negotiations
Written by Jeanne Davant   


Light up the night


Becky Pontz of Concrete Couch leads revelers through downtown Manitou Springs during the annual Lantern Parade on Friday, April 14.

Photo by Casey Bradley Gent

Negotiations on a contract to rehabilitate the Brook Street bridge are continuing this week after Chuck Murphy, founder of Murphy Constructors of Colorado Springs Inc., agreed to provide information sought by the Public Services Department.

Murphy warned Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday, however, that he might withdraw his bid if the process gets “too convoluted.”

Murphy Constructors was one of three firms that responded to a request for proposals to rehabilitate the bridge over Ruxton Creek, which has been damaged by floodwaters. A panel that reviewed the proposals ranked the Murphy proposal highest but had numerous questions.

Public Services Director Shelley Cobau stated in a memo to Council that staff has been communicating since late March with Dale Latty, who has served as the Murphy project team’s representative.

“Though much information has been exchanged in the course of these interactions, to date, a host of ranker concerns have yet to be fully addressed,” Cobau’s memo stated.

Among the most significant concerns was that “the project team as originally advanced … has changed substantially,” the memo continued.

The original proposal identified engineer John Morgan as the project manager. The most recent information staff has received names engineer Michael Orsillo in that role, but information about his qualifications has not been provided. Two other team members, including Concrete Couch, were removed from the project team, and several additional personnel were added.

“The proposal has changed so substantially that I wonder if it compromises our procurement standards,” City Administrator Jason Wells said Tuesday.

Wells said the city has been dealing with repercussions from contracts “in various states of disarray” that were negotiated before he joined the staff three years ago.

“The agreements themselves were problematic,” Wells said. “Significant taxpayer money fell through the cracks. I’ve been asked, ‘What are you going to do?’ The answer is to scrutinize contracts on the front end. We’re not going to wind up with some other arrangement where things are not clear, not properly itemized or an inflated budget that costs taxpayers.”

As Council discussed the agenda item, described as an update on the bridge with no public comment, Councilor Becky Elder asked Murphy to address the issues.

Murphy said Morgan was his first choice for project manager.

“He’s revered in the community among contractors and engineers,” Murphy said. “This whole deal got all wrapped up, and he said, ‘I don’t need this; there’s too much confusion.’ So we got Mike Orsillo, who’s also very competent.”

Murphy said he was willing to provide a detailed proposal and answer staff questions but said, “extra stuff is being asked for. … I’m not interested in getting embroiled in heated conversations or disturbing friend and foe. All I wanted to do is do that bridge. … But if it gets too convoluted, I’m going to be like John Morgan and say goodbye.”

Wells said communication with the firm “has been a big entanglement because the person we’ve been communicating with … quite honestly doesn’t have the qualifications to engage in negotiations. I think if we could get someone else, we could go through this quickly.”

“We’ll do whatever’s necessary,” Murphy said. “If we erred in getting you enough information, we apologize.”

“This conversation should go offline and go back to staff,” Mayor Pro Tem Gary Smith said.

Councilor Bob Todd agreed.

“My bottom-line recommendation is that Council reinforce the direction to the city administrator to return to Council when he has a solid proposal and recommendation for preventive maintenance measures,” Todd said.

In January, Council authorized the Public Services Department to issue a request for proposals for design-build services for rehabilitating the bridge. The city has also received a proposal from Amec Foster Wheeler to demolish the bridge.

As part of the latter process, a required permit from the Army Corps of Engineers is on hold until Council formally decides whether to rehabilitate or demolish the bridge.