All the firms that submitted bid proposals to the Kosciusko County Parks and Recreation Board for the blueways and greenways master plan and/or the Chinworth trail extension study and design will be interviewed as finalists, except one.
The determination was made at a special board meeting Thursday morning. The interviews will take place Nov. 9 in the video conference room of the Justice Building, beginning with an executive session at 8 a.m. The interviews will be at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Each interview session will be scheduled for an hour, but likely only last 30-45 minutes. Another executive session may follow the last interview.
Thursday’s discussion on determining the finalists to be interviewed for the two projects began with the board discussing the costs presented with the proposals to make sure all board members agreed to what those costs were. The bid proposals were opened at the board’s Oct. 19 meeting.
Board President Rob Bishop listed what he found the costs to be in the proposals. On the master plan, those were a range of $16,000-$120,000 from TSW (Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group); $89,000 from The Troyer Group; $93,500 from McKenna; and $80,000 from Triad Associates Inc.
For the trail extension, the bid proposals were $252,340 from Jones Petrie & Rafiniski (JPR); $165,862 from The Troyer Group; $300,000 from RQAW; and $60,000 from Triad.
Initially, there was some confusion as to if the $80,000 cost estimate from Triad was just for the master plan or for both the master plan and the trail extension. Stu Savka, with Triad, explained to the board that the $80,000 was for the master plan and $60,000 was for the trail extension.
The board briefly discussed if their request for proposals (RFP) was clear enough as to what they wanted in the bids. Bishop said the board could decide that if their RFP wasn’t adequate and they didn’t get the response they wanted, they could rebid it.
County Commissioner Cary Groninger said that wasn’t ideal because, “It’s kind of like you’re playing poker and you make everyone lay their cards down and now you’re asking them to play another hand of poker with the same cards.” He also warned that if they rebid it, they wouldn’t get the same response the second time.
“With that said, there’s got to be some resemblance of comparison because right now I feel like we’ve got apples and oranges that we’re trying to compare from a price perspective, if there’s not a clear scope,” Groninger said.
He said the interview process could help clarify “what’s in everybody’s scope.”
Bishop said it looks like they have a range of above $60,000 to a high of $300,000.
After board member Mike Cusick asked a couple questions to the JPR representative online, Groninger suggested the board decide on which bidders they wanted to interview and then ask their questions during those interviews.
“I’m not sure having them answer questions with all the competitors online is necessarily fair to everybody from a perspective of what’s part of the process,” Groninger said.
The board’s interviews with the bidders will be closed to the public, but no decisions will be made. Boards legally must vote on any decision in a public meeting because of the Open Door Law.
Cusick made the suggestion that RQAW not be included in the interviews due to the high cost of their bid proposal and it being outside of their scope of the project budget. While no formal vote was taken on not including RQAW, no one spoke up to disagree with Cusick on his suggestion and they were not included in the interview slate.
Later in the meeting, Mike Reese, with The Troyer Group, asked if firms bidding on both projects could have longer interview sessions than the proposed 30-45 minutes. Bishop said the 45 minutes should be enough time.
In discussing the costs for the project, Groninger said while they wanted the trail extension to be nice, it didn’t have to be to the standards of the Indiana Department of Transportation. He said he wanted to make sure they could build the project and not just end up with design plans and no way to build the trail.
The county set aside $850,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the design and build of the greenway extension and almost $90,000 for the master plan. The town of Winona Lake also has about $30,000 in grant funding it has offered to go toward the master plan.
The ARPA dollars have to be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
Board member Aggie Sweeney indicated that Kosciusko County Highway Department Superintendent Steve Moriarty told her and Cusick that he was willing to help on the process. The board decided to ask him to attend the executive session at 8 a.m. Nov. 9, if he’s available, to talk about what questions they might want to ask the bidding firms.