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Cracks in bidding process for city projects


The conversion of unused tennis courts at Apodaca Park to new pickleball courts that get played on every day is an example of city leaders listening to residents and making better use of existing facilities.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that less than nine months after the Oct. 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony last year, cracks have developed running east to west along both ends of the court. Smaller cracks have started to spiderweb throughout the playing surface.

New fencing was installed on three of the four sides. On the north side, where the old fencing remains, the latch to the gate is held in place by a rusty nail that has been bent to serve the purpose. Ironically, it is the only gate that is compliant with federal ADA regulations, but there is no sidewalk leading to it.

All of the work was done without required permits and inspections, former Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member Frank Carril explained recently on KTAL-LP community radio.

“This project was never permitted, and it never spawned any inspections,” Carril said.

That was because the contractor told the state that the project only included rehabilitation of the existing pad and construction of a new sidewalk, which would not require a permit, Carril said. In fact, the job expanded the size of the pad by eight feet on both the west and east sides and by four feet on the south side, which is why new fencing was required on those three sides.

“Over 65 cubic yards of concrete, steel, rebar and everything else, and then the fence being placed upon that with footings and foundations,” Carril said, all done without a permit or inspection.

City officials are also relying on the excuse that the project was renovation of an existing facility for the decision to ignore ADA requirements, making the courts inaccessible to players in wheelchairs.

Carril, who had 20 years of contracting experience before his retirement, said the city needs to change from the current request for proposal process, in which the city sets the price and leaves the details to the contractor, to a request for bid process, which gives the city more control and is less susceptible to corruption.

City officials are in the process of putting together the package of projects for the upcoming general obligation bond election in November. I’ve always voted for the GO bond in the past because I believe we need to continue investing in our community. But this year I’ve got some new questions about what process will be used to select the contactors and how we ensure that everything is properly permitted and inspected.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com

Walt Rubel