Letter to the editor: Questionable Business Practices?

On Nov. 11, 2015, the Encinitas City Council approved a $521,650 contract (more correctly $573,766 with contingency) for construction plans, environmental documents, and State approval for an at-grade RR crossing at Montgomery Dr. (11/16/15 Encinitas Advocate article, “Encinitas council OKs contract for rail crossing”).

Despite potential neighborhood impacts, the Council pushed the contract through without notice to the community. Typically notices are mailed to the surrounding community for things like a neighbor pulling a permit to build/remodel their house; so why no notice on something potentially more significant?

Regardless of whether the project is a good idea or not and whether there was any legal requirement to notify residents, most people would agree that before committing to spend a half million dollars now and $2 million more later, there should be notice and an effort to hear from the people who are most familiar with the problems, needs, environment, and character of the area. Public outreach is part of the contractor’s scope of work, but that doesn’t start on the his work schedule until approximately 5 months (April 2016) into the project.

The agenda item indicated there was only one bidder on the nearly $600,000 contract. I don’t know of anyone that would do $600K work on their house without getting multiple bids/proposals. The contractor may be a fine company, that’s not the point. The point is that going with only one bid is a questionable business practice for our City. Why didn’t other firms compete for the sizeable contract? The prudent thing (best practices) would have been to reject the bid, reach out to more firms and then re-advertise the project.

In addition, the selected contractor’s proposal assumes that he will prepare a Categorical Exemption under CEQA for the project. This is before any environmental data has been collected. At a minimum this does not seem to be consistent with the spirit of CEQA. Are shortcuts being pushed by a political agenda?

Ralph Thielicke, Cardiff

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