Two weeks after learning that the opening of Tracy’s proposed homeless shelter could be delayed until the end of the year, the Tracy City Council on Tuesday learned that it will more likely be another year before the shelter opens.
The city awarded a $2 million contract to Grade Tech Inc. of San Ramon in April to prepare the 4.8-acre site on Arbor Avenue. A followup contract would fulfill plans to put in a 6,300-square-foot high-tension membrane structure as a 68-bed shelter, with plans for repurposed shipping containers to be brought in as auxiliary buildings for restrooms, showers, laundry and storage.
Last month the city learned that the sole bid on the project should be disqualified because the contractor did not fill out forms required by the federal government. Those forms would describe how the project would include “disadvantaged business enterprise” subcontractors as a condition for receiving federal funding.
The matter came back to the council on Tuesday for formal rejection of the bid. City Engineer Robert Armijo told the council that in addition to the incomplete bid package, the lone bid came in substantially higher than the original estimate of $6.9 million.
The sole bidder on the project, Gowan Construction Inc. of Tracy, offered to do the project for nearly $11.7 million. Armijo told the council that even after his office recalculated its estimate to account for the recent rise in the cost of construction materials his estimate still lands at $8.3 million, still well below Gowan Construction’s proposal. The city has about $10 million budgeted for the project.
Armijo added that conversations with other potential bidders revealed that the city’s timelines for certain aspects of construction were unrealistic. For example, the city’s bid documents suggested that certain electrical components, which require the contractor to coordinate with PG&E, should take about 180 days to complete, where most contractors told the city it was more likely a 270-day job. He said contractors could also face delays in procuring construction materials, such as concrete, which have been subject to shortages.
“At the time that we prepared the specifications we believed that was a fair number of construction days to complete the project,” Armijo told the council. “But because there are all of these disruptions in the supply chains, including the critical item, the switch gear and the switchboards, that was creating a no-go for all of the bidders when they reviewed the contract. They were able to identify right away that they couldn’t possibly perform the contract.”
The solution will be for city staff to prepare new bid documents and re-advertise the project, this time to include a 300-day timeline and also list some aspects of the project as alternative bid items.
“Certain items can be taken out of the project if they are not mission critical,” Armijo said.
The council unanimously rejected the sole bid for construction, and authorized city staff to draw up a new request for bids and re-advertise the project.
As with most city meetings where homeless issues are discussed the council heard from the public, including pleas and demands that existing homeless encampments, including the largest one at El Pescadero Park, be removed or relocated.
Karen Moore said that such matters as a pandemic and supply chain delays are out of the council’s control, but the city still could find alternative sites where unsheltered people can stay.
“The citizens have been very vocal. They want their park back,” she said.
Dan Evans told the council that he looks at the shelter project through his perspective as a 27-year career certified project manager.
“With that being said, this is the most spectacular failure I’ve ever seen in my 27-year career,” Evans told the council. “This is not a difficult project. This is a Sprung structure. In the time that we’re talking about all these delays … some of them are little, some of them aren’t, skyscrapers are being built.”
Dotty Nygard told the council that solutions must include compassion for the people who find themselves with no alternative but to live in these encampments.
“I want to remind everyone, these are still human beings that reside in our city. They’re still considered residents. Yes, it’s going to be a while before we get that shelter, but in the meantime we should be looking diligently at how we can increase the resources that they need.”
“We have had 2 years of COVID. It has upset every system in our state, and yes, we have more in poverty than ever, which we don’t talk about enough,” she added. “We must come together with good solutions.”
On a separate vote, the council unanimously authorized City Manager Michael Rogers to take immediate and emergency actions to establish temporary housing for the unsheltered until the city can complete its Arbor Avenue shelter, including working with service providers, and finding alternate sites for people to go.
“This action is one to put a solution together, an interim solution, where we can at least abide by the commitment that we had told you all that we would have something in place this year,” Rogers said.
“This action here is one that will allow myself to really reach out to everybody in this industry that can actually provide support to those who are so much in need of services, the unhoused. We have to start taking care of the unhoused immediately. As quickly as possible,” Rogers said.
“What this does is, it makes me dig in and say, you know what? We’re going to have to get really creative to make some stuff happen,” he added. “Everything has got to be on the table right now.”
“We’re going to try to put something back in our control, and that’s what this is about, and bringing those in who know how to fix this problem.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 209-830-4227.