The list of city officials squeamish about hiring the Wallace Group grew as members of the Grover Beach City Council voiced their apprehension of entering into a contract with the engineering and design firm.
Ultimately, city officials awarded the company a roughly $104,000 contract for construction management for the second phase of the city’s West Grand Avenue enhancement project—even though the Wallace bid was roughly $10,000 over what the city had budgeted.
In a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Phyllis Molnar dissenting, the council approved the project, but not without expressing that their hands were tied by the need to get the project rolling and the fact that the excess could be covered by the project’s contingency fund.
On Oct. 1, 2012, the council awarded a contract to Brough Construction, Inc. to do the physical construction for street enhancements in the downtown core between 8th and 11th, including landscaped medians, street corner ramps, decorative crosswalks, concrete intersections, and lighting and irrigation. In December, the city’s Public Works Department sought proposals for engineering, materials testing, and construction survey services; it received proposals from four firms. Wallace Group was one of them.
At the Jan. 15 meeting, Public Works Director Greg Ray took heat from council members as to why they were just now seeing the bid, when construction is slated to begin in the coming weeks. Ray said that staff shortages and a state law that doesn’t allow for negotiating prior to the award for consulting services—as opposed to construction services—led to the last-minute agenda item. Molnar wasn’t impressed and said she had reservations about hiring the Wallace Group amid a possible $1.3 million fine facing the South County Sanitation District stemming from a 2010 sewage spill. The Wallace Group is that district’s engineering consultant.
“We need to separate the [district from] the construction management of the Wallace Group. The team is run by me,” Daisy Morgan, director of management services for the firm, told the council. “This is not something we do once in a while. This is our livelihood, and we want to make sure you get the best product.”
“This has created a great concern for me personally… but I don’t think we can afford to delay,” said Mayor Debbie Peterson, who also sits on the sanitation district’s board. “I’m ready to go at this, but if it doesn’t go well, I will probably never do it again.”