TELLURIDE – A construction company questioning the manner in which the Town of Telluride awarded its contract for the much-anticipated Pandora Water Treatment Plant in Bridal Veil Basin took its fight to get in on the $11 million deal a step further when it sought, and failed, to secure a preliminary injunction against the town in San Miguel County District Court last week.
Sought by Aslan Construction, Inc. of Berthoud, Colo., the injunction would have prevented the town from commencing work on the project it awarded to Southwest Contracting of Cortez, Colo. while it underwent further legal review.
“The decision allows us to move ahead to put the contract in place with Southwest and to begin the work,” said Mayor Stu Fraser.
Although the Telluride Town Council approved the contract with Southwest in September, it did not issue an order to proceed at that time for a variety of reasons, according to Town Attorney Kevin Geiger.
The main reason involved the sale of bonds to finance the project. Shortly after council approved two readings of an ordinance authorizing that sale, the town then received a notice of protest from Aslan, he said.
In that protest the Front Range contractor took issue with the method by which the town awarded the contract because it changed the scope of the work midstream after determining that access road work included in the original bid documents was unnecessary.
The town removed the cost of that line item from each of the bids it received, and in doing so Southwest emerged as the lowest bidder and, thus, received the contract.
Aslan, however, maintained that if the access road had remained in the work scope it would have been the lowest bidder and that the town had an obligation to award it the contract.
The company also suggested that the town had negotiated a lower price to the contract with Southwest subsequent to the submission of competitive bids and contrary to accepted practices.
During the unusual, three-hour November appeals hearing, however, the elected officials sided with a finding by Town Manager Greg Clifton that determined the town followed its own procurement guidelines when it awarded the contract, despite Aslan’s allegations to the contrary.
San Miguel County District Judge James Schum essentially upheld that finding at last week’s three-hour preliminary injunction hearing.
“The judge disagreed [with Aslan],” said Fraser. “He agreed that we could remove a component of the bid, the access road, and that everyone was treated the same way.
“The judge did not rule in their favor,” he continued. “He ruled in the town’s favor on virtually every issue.”
“I do think we had a very strong ruling from the court,” said Town Attorney Geiger.
Aslan President and Chief Estimator Michael Pelphrey did not disagree.
“[Judge Schum] made a very long ruling…and made a point of ruling against us on every single issue that was under discussion,” he said. “Some were important and some were not very important, but I thought a clear message was being sent.”
Although the appeals process requires Aslan to notify the court by Jan. 14 of whether or not it plans to pursue further legal action, Pelphrey, reached by The Watch, said the company does not intend to do so.
“It would be counterproductive to continue to pursue it,” he said. “It will distract us from other things we could be doing.”
Geiger said that he would expect the town to issue the notice to proceed shortly, provided the matters with Aslan are resolved.