Two-way street contract for St Francis Electric

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.

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“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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