Water & Drought

Sacramento scrubs lowest-bid requirement for water meter work

In 2014, workers with Teichert Construction work on Land Park Drive south of Second Avenue, replacing water mains.
In 2014, workers with Teichert Construction work on Land Park Drive south of Second Avenue, replacing water mains. Sacramento Bee file

Contractors seeking to install water meters in Sacramento will have to offer more than the lowest price.

They also will have to meet criteria in areas of customer service and local hiring.

The City Council voted Thursday to scrap the practice of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder and instead create a pool of pre-qualified companies that would win contracts based in part on subjective criteria, such as customer satisfaction. City officials said the selection process will be based on the contractor’s qualifications, performance-based criteria and pricing. The process, they said, will allow the city to award contracts to qualified contractors and repeat the process multiple times if the contractor performs well and within budget.

The change comes after city officials said residents have complained about past installation work, ranging from a lack of sufficient notice to reacting when a gas line is hit.

City officials said they are looking for contractors who will keep residents informed of construction activities. Councilman Eric Guerra said the city needs to focus on contractors that not only do good work, but who have a “bedside manner” in terms of customer service.

Contractors also will be required to hire a minimum of 5 percent of their workers for the project from among local residents, specifically those from high-poverty areas including Meadowview, Oak Park and Del Paso Heights. The program has set a local hire goal of 20 percent and provides an incentive to meet the goal by awarding more points to contractors in the evaluation process based on the level of local hiring they commit to for the project.

The city’s water meter project was scheduled to be completed by 2025, but last year the City Council expedited that schedule, setting a 2020 completion date and pushing the Utilities Department to look for ways to speed up work. The shorter timeline is expected to save the city $65.3 million, according to a city staff report presented last year when the acceleration was proposed.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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