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Councilors disagree over adding to Stolar budget

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Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013 12:00 am

Preparing a site for technology company Stolar Research Corp. to move to Rio Rancho is costing as much as $70,000 more than planned.

At the Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting Wednesday night at City Hall, city councilors voted to add $70,000 to the budget for water and wastewater lines and the construction of Innovation Way for the Stolar site near US 550 in Enchanted Hills. That amount includes almost $17,600 to repair Picabo Street while crews are already working in the area, plus about $23,600 in contingency funds in case of unexpected problems.

The money will come from the unreserved fund balance, leaving about $2.2 million still in the fund.

The city will adjust its project participation agreement with Stolar accordingly.

Councilors Lonnie Clayton and Chuck Wilkins wanted the addition to the budget to be less than the $70,000 the staff recommended, but the other four councilors voted for that amount.

“The city needs to be business-friendly, but I’m not giving the city away,” Wilkins said.

Southern Boulevard has worse cracks that Picabo, he continued, saying he wasn’t comfortable approving the $17,600 for repairs. He also thought there was enough contingency money already built into the bid.

Wilkins advocated adding $45,000 to the project budget and then adjusting the work to be done as necessary.

Councilor Tim Crum supported the $70,000 adjustment. He said he expects the project manager to fight to get the project done without dipping into contingency money, and wants Picabo stabilized since it could be done for a third of the normal cost by adding it on to the other work.

“When you can repair, you repair,” he said.

Community Development Officer George Bootes III said bids for the infrastructure construction had come in higher than expected, and he hadn’t thought to include the repairs of Picabo Street in the initial estimate. The original estimate by engineers was $440,000.

Bootes said in the lowest bid among the nine submitted, Mountain States Constructors quoted a $421,000 price. The engineering work has cost $38,600, plus having someone create plans, answer the builder’s questions and review the materials used will cost $8,600.

“The idea of pursuing a project at this level without a contingency fund is something I don’t feel comfortable with,” he said.

Without contingency money, a problem or need for extra materials would cause the work to stop until the governing body approved a change order, delaying the tight timeline Stolar needs. If the contractor doesn’t use the contingency money, it reverts to the city.

Bootes said he originally thought the adjustment would need to be $100,000. However, city public works and development staff agreed to do the in-field construction observation in-house, saving $30,000.

For Picabo Street, Bootes said the city could save as much as two-thirds of the cost by having the Mountain States do the repairs as part of the Stolar work, compared to making it a separate project. The work involves crack repair, asphalt fog sealant and restriping to make Picabo consistent with Innovation Way to improve safety and traffic flow.

“I know each one of you can point to streets in your district that have similar problems,” Bootes said.

He said a contractor would be next door to Picabo Street, and repairs would benefit the Bank of America nearby, where 400 people work. He also predicts a dramatic increase in traffic on the street once Stolar opens.

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