A last-minute, unannounced change in the agenda at the November 17 board meeting put Cooper’s bonus and contract extension discussions before talks of miscalculated fixed bridge bids.
Board member Lee Majors questioned whether the end result of those votes would have been the same had the bridge bid error been discussed first, and he put forth a motion to revisit the four-year contract extension Cooper had proposed and received.
Board member David Hayes seconded it.
Major said he felt they “didn’t have full command of the vote, and it could have been tabled.”
Argument broke out between board members Gingers Watkins and Dick Ryan. Watkins said that, in all fairness, they could revisit it.
“I have listened to everybody’s arguments, and I’m sitting here today with the realization that Jim cares about construction management,” she said. “I would probably vote with the majority to extend his contract for four years, but I have to listen. It is my job as the chair of this authority’s governance committee to go back, and look, and take care of what I was elected to do. I was elected to represent everybody’s interests, and I feel good about going back and looking at it.”
Cooper told the board if the four-year extension he proposed at the last meeting was taken back, he would reconsider his position financially at his next evaluation.
“If I don’t get this extension now, and we have to negotiate the contract in 2013, when we renegotiate my contract it will change. The job I was hired to do is completely different than what I am doing now.”
Board member Thor Johnson protested the suggestion to revisit the contract, and said he wants to get Cooper’s “hands tied to the project.”
Advisory member Ed Reefe agreed, and said it would be bad to change horses in mid-stream.
In the end, the board voted 3-2 to keep the contract as it stands. Major and Hayes voted to revisit.
The board also voted to change the way the new bridges will look. Instead of sporting Wyoming rails, which afford a relatively unspoiled view of the water, the bridges will have Jersey barricades, which are made of concrete.
The board voted to make the change after Cooper explained that they just got the estimates for the Wyoming rails, which were $175,000 more than the concrete barriers.
The board voted unanimously to go with the Jersey barriers.
In other bridge news, GIBA’s engineering committee met on Wednesday, Dec. 7 and the question of the day was, “If KCA and DRMP misjudged the fixed bridge bids, should they be fired and other firms hired?”
That was the exact question, actually, that several board members posed to Tom Shaw of KCA and Mike Albano of DRMP. The meeting was held to determine what action to recommend to the board at their meeting on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Albano was the one who actually worked the bid, but board member David Hayes said that he was very disappointed in Shaw and KCA.
“My confidence in them is zero,” he said. “There should have been red flags flying everywhere, but there weren’t. We relied on your company, Tom, and you failed miserably.”
Shaw and Albano explained that one of the major problems that occurred in the misjudged bids was the fact that general Department of Transportation specifications were used, not specific marine specs.
Dave Thornton, senior vice president of the low-bidding company Orion, said that marine construction jobs are always more expensive.
Hayes then inquired why the job wasn’t bid with marine specs.
“Pretty much 99 percent of what we did was great,” Albano responded. “This was an estimate, blown by me, not Tom. I feel very bad about it, guys. I did not do this on purpose. It’s hard to sit in front of you and say that, but it’s all I can do. I will do everything I can to try and make it right. The estimate was wrong. We worked our hardest on these plans, I wish you would focus on that. We were the first to design these new bridges to the new codes. I’ve poured my heart out to you guys, and been in touch with you all the time. If you want to fire me, fine.”
The subject of firing either company was not broached at Thursday’s meeting, but it was brought to light that the Bridge Authority would be charged by both companies for their services in communicating with Orion when it came to the contract.
GIBA board members want to change that, due to the $6 million miscalculation in the fixed bridge bids provided by DRMP, and overseen by KCA.
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