COEUR d’ALENE — After an inquiry into the process of rejecting bids, the Coeur d’Alene City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a $5.8 million deal with T. LaRiviere Construction to begin work on the Atlas Waterfront Park project.
The Rathdrum construction company, which will create public access to an additional 3,800 feet of waterfront shoreline along the Atlas Mill site, will begin as early as November. LaRiviere originally submitted a bid one minute past the deadline, negating the bid and leaving only one bid on the books. That bid, submitted by the contracting company Cameron Reilly, was well beyond the anticipated budget, leading the City to reject the bid and begin the negotiation process.
That led to concerns from citizens and Council alike.
“I’m here as a taxpayer in Coeur d’Alene and as a firm believer in the sanctity of the competitive bid process that’s provided for in law,” Dean Haagenson said. “... The cleanest thing to happen would be to re-issue that project or an amended project for a re-bid ... There’s a provision in the law to negotiate if you don’t get an adequate number of bidders. But that bid was not only accepted and open and the world knows the numbers. Correct me if any of my facts are wrong, but you’re negotiating with one firm and a non-responsive bidder. You’re not negotiating with others that may be interested in the project.”
The City’s legal team addressed the concern by stating the City was within its rights to reject all bids if the bids didn’t satisfy the project requirements.
Council member Kiki Miller shared some of Haagenson’s sentiments but said she was confident in the process’s transparency, adding the project needed to move forward before winter.
“I will say that I did go through this whole process pretty diligently,” Miller said, “and I was there at the bid opening, and it was pretty surprising there was only one contractor who submitted, and there was one that was non-responsive. I also know the timing on this project is a little critical right now, in that we need to move forward with shoreline stabilization and work this year in order to have developers come in and be able to confidently give us a proposal on purchasing some of these lands, and [then] developing them in order to get the cashflow back where we need it to be.”
Council member Dan Gookin agreed that the process works when transparent, but that future councils might abuse the loophole.
“It seems like the goal here is to be fair,” he said. “I don’t think we were unfair, and I think we did everything right. But I do see a potential in the code where it could go sideways. I don’t think that happened here, but I think that should be a concern.”
Miller echoed Gookin’s belief in transparency. “It was concerning to me, as well,” she said. “I want to make sure we followed the law and we followed the process and we’ve gotten the best financial picture we can for this project.”
The contract provides for shoreline stabilization, parking and park construction, as well as optional add-ons such as a dog park, kayak launch and log boom. The contract requires a completion date no later than July 31, 2020, but City planners believe LaRiviere will be completed by the end of June.