City picks consultant

The city once again is recommending hiring Janssen and Spaans Engineering as consultant for the Rocky Ford Road renovation project after completing a federally mandated rescoring of seven companies applying for the job.

Columbus Board of Works members on Tuesday unanimously approved the engineering office’s recommendation to select Janssen. That recommendation will now go to the Indiana Department of Transportation for final approval.

As consultant, Janssen will be in charge of engineering services, including construction inspection, said Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer. In January, Board of Works members had recommended Janssen to INDOT as the selected consultant.

But at the board’s Feb. 23 meeting, Hayward said a review by the Federal Highway Administration showed that there were errors in the scoring process to select a consultant for the project last year under the administration of former Mayor Kristen Brown and again this year under Mayor Jim Lienhoop’s administration.

The city was asked to issue a new request for proposals for a project consultant or risk losing about $544,000 in federal funds for the project, the city engineer said.

The city issued the new request for proposals in February and received responses from seven firms:

Janssen and Spaans Engineering, Indianapolis

Beam, Longest and Neff, LLC, Indianapolis

Bollinger, Lach and Associates, Indianapolis

HWC Engineering, Indianapolis

Strand Associates, Columbus

American Structurepoint, Indianapolis

United Consulting, Indianapolis

Three local people were selected to score the applicants based on INDOT regulations — Zack Ellison, Columbus Area Metropolitan Planning Organization president; Becky Douglas, engineering technician in the city engineer’s office and the INDOT Rocky Ford Road project manager; and Dwight Smith, Bartholomew County highway superintendent.

Those three were selected as scorers because they met INDOT’s qualifications and because they had not been part of any of previous rounds of scoring, Hayward said.

Initially, a tally of the scores showed a tie between Janssen and Strand Associates, a Columbus-based firm, Hayward said.

Keith Reeves, Columbus City Utilities director, then was selected as a fourth scorer, and his evaluation came out in favor of Janssen, breaking the tie and allowing the engineering office to recommend the Indianapolis firm on Tuesday.

A request for proposals for the Rocky Ford Road project was originally posted last summer. The initial scoring process came out in favor of Janssen, but a rescore when Brown was mayor showed that United Consulting of Indianapolis had earned the highest marks.

The Board of Works members awarded the nearly $700,000 contract to United in November. However, Hayward said at the Jan. 12 meeting of the new Board of Works that INDOT had both Janssen and United listed as the project consultant and had asked the city to pick just one.

After Lienhoop took office, a subsequent rescore came out in favor of Janssen, so the contract with United was canceled.

However, the Federal Highway Administration’s review of the process also forced the city to cancel the contract with Janssen in February. No money had exchanged hands from either contract, Hayward said.

INDOT now must approve Janssen as the official project manager in order for the project to move forward.

An initial timeline called for the road to be reopened with wider lanes and new pedestrian and bicycle paths by the winter of 2017.

About the project

Planned improvements to Rocky Ford Road will focus on a one-mile stretch between Taylor and Talley Roads on the northeast side of Columbus. Rocky Ford will be widened to two 11-foot through lanes, with a center left-turn lane that will be 12 feet wide. Five-foot bike lanes also will be added to the road. The bike lanes will be separated from the road by 10 feet of grass buffers on either side, designed to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Major improvements also are planned for Sloan Branch Bridge. A new, reinforced concrete bridge will be constructed over the existing structure. A hydraulic opening will be installed under the bridge as part of an entirely new storm drainage along the length of the project, which will empty into Sloan Branch Creek.

The total cost of the project is an estimated at $8.5 million, with federal transportation dollars covering about $6.8 million. The city will pay the remaining $1.7 million through city and county funds already allocated for the bridge replacement portion of the project.

Qualifications for scorers

The Indiana Department of Transportation requires scorers who review responses to request for proposals to meet the following qualifications:

  • No conflict of interest with the project — i.e., no financial interests in any of the responding firms
  • Be representative of the local public agency (City of Columbus, Bartholomew County)
  • Act independently
  • Be knowledgeable of the project
  • Be informed of the scoring process

And specifically to this situation, scorers could not have previously participated in any of the preceding rounds of scoring.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.