AZTEC — The city commission voted down a $22,000 proposal in added costs to build the North Main Avenue pedestrian bridge 3-2 during their Tuesday night meeting.
Commissioners wrung their hands over added costs to the bridge, but voted against the increase on principle because the contractor for the project, RMCI Inc., the Albuquerque firm in charge of construction, did not send a representative to the meeting to take questions over the new charges.
Commissioners Roberta Locke, Katee McClure and Mayor Pro-tem Sherri Sipe voted against approving the higher price tag. Mayor Sally Burbridge and Commissioner Sheri Rogers voted to approve the costs.
"I was really hoping RMCI was going to be here tonight," Sipe said. "We have made an effort to make these guys be held accountable for when they put in these bids and then come back with these change orders. I'm frustrated. We pay for the expertise and then we still end up with these change orders."
One of the two added costs, approximately $10,000 to cover the change in the style of railing for the bridge, was city-requested, however. In an effort to match an existing pedestrian bridge that connects Hartman and Riverside Parks, they city ordered a different railing instead of a transportation department standard railing.
The other change was due to added depths discovered earlier this month during drilling the shafts for the bridge's piers and abutments that conflicted with early test drilling and a geo-technical report conducted before the design phase of the project.
"We have kind of set a policy where if there's any change orders requested, the contractor has to come before us to answer questions directly," Burbridge said after the meeting. "I would think, speaking for myself, why it was not approved tonight than anything else, was them not being here. It's not a red flag with this contractor. It's a standard that we want to question any change like this. It's an accountability thing for us."
RMCI Project Manager Gary Huffman said the changes involving the drilling holes was par for the course.
"Drill shafts needed to go down deeper into the bedrock," Huffman said by phone before the meeting on Tuesday. "It's an unforeseen when they do the test holes, This is standard. Where the bore holes were drilled and where the actual piers was drilled after are two separate locations, different elevations. All four drill holes varied in length depending on their location along the river."
Huffman said the project has run smoothly for the most part so far and was looking forward to installing the largest of three sections of the bridge across the river with the help of three cranes on Wednesday.
"This has gone pretty well," Huffman said. "It's really going to look nice in and around the trees and willows."
The next opportunity for commissioners to approve the measure could be in two weeks when the commissioners meet again.
The commission has already approved about $600,000 in city money for the $1.5 million project.
The bridge construction is also funded by a $900,000 grant from the state transportation department. The 110,000-pound bridge will connect to trails leading from downtown Aztec and from the Aztec Ruins National Monument on either side of the river just upstream of the Hampton Arroyo.
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.