A few weeks have passed and the reopening of San Jacinto Plaza has now become a part of El Paso history. The city waited for more than two and a half years for the construction to be completed with state-of-the-art additions to the park.
The renovation project that began in June of 2013 took longer than expected. Leading causes for the postponement were weather, shipment delays, design changes and damaged materials.
The city of El Paso awarded Basic IDIQ Construction with the responsibility of modernizing San Jacinto Plaza. The company submitted the lowest bid amongst three other contracting firms in the running. The original proposed cost was to be $4,516,508.88, but after delays forced Basic IDIQ to finish behind schedule, the city implemented liquidated damages of $1,000 per day for almost a year.
Officials said the project’s actual cost has been hiked up to about $5.1 million. The city is also on the hook to pay SWA an architectural firm, $35,729 more for helping complete the plaza’s new design.
On May 3, 2016, the city council approved the new amendment explaining the need to keep the California firm available, which increased the design cost to $674,000 for SWA. The total budget of construction and design combined was $6 million, funded by the 2012 quality of life bond approved by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone revenues and voters.
The new amendment will cover extra work that was required prior to San Jacinto’s completion, according to Monica Lombrana, director of the city’s Capital Improvement Department.
The two other firms contesting for the San Jacinto Plaza’s renovation contract were F.T. James Construction and Venegas Engineering Management and Construction. Their bids were $2.5 to $3 million higher than Basic IDIQ’s.
“The Engineering and Construction Management Department recommends award to bidder offering the best value bid,” a motion filed by the city in January 2014 stated.
Mayor Pro Tempore Courtney Niland asked to award Basic IDIQ the contract to redesign San Jacinto Plaza, and only city representative Lilly Limon voted against it. Michiel Noe was absent during the motion.
“Basic IDIQ made the bid at $4.5 million and the other two bidding contracting companies based it as an impossible task, for that price,” said Limón. “They said $6 million would be more realistic.”
Limón talked about how she was never against the project, but after carefully analyzing the situation, she felt Basic IDIQ’s bid was not an accurate amount. She even wanted a fourth bid to come in and see how it compared to the previous three, giving a better understanding of a more precise total.
“Usually the lowest bidder gets the job, and sometimes they don’t have experience to finish the project,” said Jose Angel Sanchez, former supervisor at Jordan Foster Construction. I think there was a lack of knowledge for the reconstruction of this magnitude.”
Sanchez, who was project manager for constructing Aggie Memorial stadium in 1972, said he could see confusion from the workers of the San Jacinto renovation, while supervising across the street for Jordan Foster. “We recalled days passing by with no sign of any work being done.”
Several attempts to contact IDIQ officials by phone and e-mail were not successful.
Many El Paso residents were becoming restless with the process of the renovation and how their city was being perceived by incoming tourists.
“I am from Pecos, and when I first began coming to El Paso, the renovation of San Jacinto had just begun,” visiting cyclist Ken Stockdale said. “In my opinion it was a joke. I don’t know how many weekends I’d come here and there wasn’t anybody working on it. It seemed like a simple project, so that’s clearly unacceptable.”
A frequent visitor of the Sun City, Stockdale showed his own frustration on how the project was handled. A man who has fallen in love with the city believes El Paso is doing a great job of revitalizing downtown, but as an outsider looking in, felt there was mismanagement and a lack of quality with the plaza renovation.
During the park’s two-acre makeover, other developments around the city were on the fast track and finished before San Jacinto. The downtown ballpark, Asarco smoke stacks coming down and Spur 1966 had all been completed, while the plaza renovation continued.
Sanchez said delays could be blamed on many causes, like bringing some cables from Germany. He added that every delay forced subcontractors to be backed up as well.
“General contractors higher the subcontractors and if the generals are not doing the job right then the subs must wait and nothing gets done,” Sanchez explained. “With any project there must be a push from the supervisor in order to meet deadlines, because you will always have rain delays and order changes, meaning more money.”
During the Plaza’s renovation, Basic IDIQ did not work on any other assignments for the city of El Paso and as for future projects, they will have to go through the same bidding processes as before.
Sanchez feels the city has become more aware they can no longer be tempted by the lowest bid when it comes to quality of work. He gave the example of the ballpark and how it was done in less than a year because the city hired a company that was able to get the job done on time.
On March 6-8 San Jacinto played host to this year’s Mariachi Loco music festival in downtown El Paso celebrating mother’s day weekend. One of the many events Limón was excited about with the completion of the plaza, and she mentioned others that were lined up in the near future (Light Bright Midnight Ride and Neon Desert).
“It is a beautiful park with so much promise and hopefully reconnects the energy of downtown’s perspective that we used to have,” said Limón. “Many thing are being booked at the plaza, so I am relived, but also very pleased.”