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Nevada LID contract approved

After Mayor John Morrison cast a rare tie-breaking vote, the Ashland City Council narrowly decided to award a contract for the Nevada Street Local Improvement District even though a sole bid on that project and two others came in at 42 percent higher than engineers estimated.

The Tuesday night decision means about 125 property owners in the Nevada Street neighborhood who had expected to pay about $575 each will pay 10 percent more. The city will absorb the remaining increase, according to city staff.

The estimated cost for the bundle of three projects was $379,751, but LTM, Inc. bid $538,470. The council majority did eliminate one project that would have covered sidewalk construction and repairs around town. The Nevada Street LID, which includes sidewalks and crosswalks, and a project to extend sidewalks partially into the street to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians at several downtown intersections will proceed at a cost of $372,320.

Councilor David Chapman, who voted against awarding the contract, worried about the cost and said the downtown &

bump-outs&

might have to be removed after the Downtown Plan is updated and implemented.

&

We&

re being held hostage by one concrete company,&

Chapman said.

But Morrison said one of the bump-outs is located where a pedestrian was killed.

&

Narrowing the distance that people have to be exposed is important,&

he said.

The City of Ashland had first bid the bundle of projects in May 2005, but a single bid came in at 48 percent higher than estimated. The bundle was bid again in Dec. 2005 and scheduled as a winter project in hopes of bringing the cost down, according to city staff.

But the city is still faced with a contractors&

&

dream world&

where contractors have more work than they can handle, according to Ashland City Surveyor Jim Olson.

Resident Art Bullock urged the council not to approve the Nevada Street LID. He has sued the city in Jackson County Circuit Court over the legality of the project.

He argued the city incorrectly split costs among the existing neighbors and developers of the Billings Ranch Homes to favor the developers, and that Ashland Public Works Director Paula Brown had a conflict of interest because she owned property in the local improvement district.

Bullock said City Administrator Gino Grimaldi testified in his deposition for the court that he had not received an e-mail from Brown stating a conflict of interest.

After the meeting, Grimaldi said he could not recall whether Brown had sent him the e-mail.

&

I can&

t recollect getting it, so I said, &

145;No,&

in the deposition. I believe Paula sent it to me,&

he said.

Grimaldi said it was also widely known that Brown had property in the local improvement district.

City Attorney Mike Franell said the city did not shift extra costs onto neighbors. The city paid a higher share of improvement costs because it classified the project as a sidewalk improvement project &

a move that saved neighbors and the Billings developers money.

The court is scheduled to review the case in June, Grimaldi and Franell said.

Brown is serving in Iraq.

Morrison and Councilors Alex Amarotico, Cate Hartzell and Kate Jackson voted to approve the contract. Councilors Jack Hardesty, Russ Silbiger and David Chapman voted against approval. Amarotico, a co-owner of Standing Stone Brewing Co., said he had a potential conflict of interest in voting on the downtown bump-outs because of his brew pub&

s downtown location. But he said he did not feel that influenced his decision-making and the council did not ask him to recuse himself.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.