Holly Redux

City takes another crack at Holly demolition

The city of Austin is making another attempt to hire a contractor to demolish the Holly Street Power Plant while trying to avoid the controversy that prompted officials to scrap the first round of bids and restart the process. This time, four firms have returned to vie for the job, down from six companies that submitted bids last year.

Each competitor came down on price, with TRC Environmental Corp. – originally the city's top choice and the second-highest bidder – dropping its cost by more than half. Just as TRC's initial bid of $24.9 million prompted tough questions about the city's willingness to pay what was then perceived as an overpriced figure, the company's dramatic drop to $11.5 million is again raising eyebrows. Earlier this year, TRC vigorously defended its higher price, with TRC supporter and former Mayor Gus Garcia explaining that companies that submit low bids typically end up filing extensive change orders that add to the cost. Last week, the only word from TRC was a media statement from company project manager Mike Holder, which is nearly identical to remarks issued in January. "This is a complex process, and we believe that we offer the best strategic plan and the best value to the city in decommissioning the Holly [Street] Power Plant," Holder said.

Another bidder, CST Environmental, is rejoining the competition under the name NCM Demolition and Remediation. The name change is the result of some company acquisitions and consolidations, explained the firm's President Subhas Khara. CST originally filed the lowest bid and sued the city late last year, alleging a flawed bidding process in the selection of TRC. The lawsuit was dismissed. The company is now bidding to dismantle the East Austin facility for $12.3 million, down from a $13.8 million bid last year. Khara said he was disappointed his firm didn't submit the lowest bid, but hoped that the company's legal challenge earlier this year contributed to the city's decision to rebid the project. "In my opinion, our actions saved the taxpayers money," he said.

Dixie Demolition, which had been city staff's second choice, submitted the third-lowest price at $14.9 million. Claude Hendrickson described his firm's offer as "fair and honest" and vowed that if selected, his company would perform the job "safely and on time – without any change orders." A fourth contractor, URS Corp., submitted a bid of $15.8 million. City staff will spend the next two months reviewing the proposals before making a recommendation to City Council, with a target date of May 26, according to Mary Lou Ochoa of the city's Contract and Land Management Department. Under this timeline, the staff recommendation would first go to the Electric Utility Commission on May 16.

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Holly Street Power Plant, TRC Environmental Corp., CST Environmental, NCM Demolition, Dixie Demolition

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