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Council awards contract for La Colonia upgrades

SOLANA BEACH — With a 4-1 vote at the Oct. 28 meeting, City Council awarded Van Dyke Landscape Architects the contract for improvements at La Colonia Park and Community Center after the company reduced its proposal for final design plans by nearly $200,000.
“What was bid that we’re not doing there?” asked Councilman Tom Campbell, who cast the dissenting vote. “I’m just flabbergasted with this amount and how we got it down so low. Was there that much fluff in the first one?”
Campbell said he was “concerned about the quality of what we’re going to get” and disappointed the city did not seek competitive bids through the request-for-proposal process after Van Dyke completed preliminary plans last year.
Several of Campbell’s colleagues shared his concerns, but after talking with staff members they said they were confident the project wouldn’t be negatively impacted by the reduced price.
“There are pros and cons to going with an RFP, but in this case I feel very comfortable going with (Van Dyke),” said Mayor Mike Nichols, a licensed landscape architect who holds a master’s degree in city planning. “They’ve done a great job. The community has gotten to know them through the process and the workshops and also has a comfort level with them.
“We’re in a position where we’re happy and we don’t want to have to repeat a lot of work because … we would end up paying for that work,” Nichols said.
The project has been in the works since mid-2006, when committees were formed to seek public input for upgrades at the 3.8-acre park. Residents and staff members developed recommendations that were presented to City Council in May 2007. Early last year council approved a preliminary design contract with Van Dyke, which then spent 11 months developing three design alternatives.
In December 2008, council selected the most popular design, which includes a skateboard plaza, artificial turf for the playing field, improvements to the community center and a relocated parking area. This past March council authorized negotiations with Van Dyke for final design plans and construction documents.
Van Dyke’s original proposal came in at $459,000, significantly higher than expected. After several rounds of what City Manager David Ott described as “tough negotiations,” Van Dyke reduced its proposal to $276,130 by eliminating redundant work such as a third-party review, transferring tasks such as permit processing to city staff and reducing project management hours.
Van Dyke also brought the estimate in line with current market conditions and eliminated mark-up fees, or standard costs consultants charge to ensure profit.
“Good,” Campbell said. “They shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
Ott said at one point he was ready to suggest the city walk away from the negotiations and seek other bids. But he and other staff members, as well as some council members, felt Van Dyke’s history with the project was a cost- and time-saving benefit.
“They have a great knowledge of not only the project, but also the community’s needs, council’s desire and staff’s expectations,” City Engineer Mo Sammak said.
A construction start date has not been set, mostly due to a lack of funding. Staff is seeking state and federal grant opportunities, however, most require some level of completed construction to qualify for funding. An initial estimate given in March puts the project cost at slightly more than $4.3 million.
A more refined estimate is expected once final construction plans are completed, Ott said.