A new city law ensures that construction contractors who don’t do a good job on road work and other projects will be disqualified from future bid opportunities.

Passed by City Council on Thursday, the responsible bidders ordinance allows city staff to refuse bids from contractors that previously did not meet expectations on a project, did not adhere to deadlines or owe the city money.

The vote to approve the ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), was unanimous. Havrda said she wanted to give the city a tool to avoid the headaches and delays of poor-performing contractors. The responsible bidder ordinance is meant to ensure a fair bidding process on projects where the lowest bid is selected.

“I believe it’s a common sense business practice,” Havrda said. “If I hire a contractor and that person doesn’t do great work, I don’t hire them back. In some ways, the city has been burdened by rules that don’t really help them to be able to have alternatives when they’re looking at contractors.”

Work will be evaluated by the project team according to a set of criteria established by the city’s Public Works and Finance departments and the City Attorney’s office. The scoring metric includes six factors with a grade given for each. 

  • 20% for meeting contract requirements
  • 20% for staying on schedule
  • 20% for the quality of work
  • 20% for responsiveness
  • 10% for keeping within budget
  • 10% for finalizing or closing out the project

Contractors with a score below 70% will not be awarded projects for three years.

The measure comes after multiple problems on the North St. Mary’s Strip project and other areas and steps City Manager Erik Walsh said earlier this month that he will take to hold contractors accountable. 

Councilman Mario Bravo (D1) said the ordinance is a step in the right direction toward completing projects on time and protecting businesses and residents from construction delays. 

“If this measure had been in place, we might not be experiencing some of the challenges that we’re experiencing today,” he said. “Some of these projects would be completed by now.”

It’s not a common situation, but it occurs consistently in other areas of the city as well, said both Councilmen Manny Pelaez (D8) and John Courage (D9). 

Courage has experienced road construction problems twice in his district in under six years, he said, “and with the growth of development going on in San Antonio, it’s going to continue.”

Public Works Director Razi Hosseini said his department worked with the Association of General Contractors in San Antonio and the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy Program to come up with the evaluation criteria. The Real Estate Council of San Antonio also supports the new ordinance, he said. 

Officials from the San Antonio and Hispanic chambers of commerce both told City Council they favored the ordinance, as did at least two constituents who voiced their support. 

Ben Peña said the city should have a way to stop a company from being awarded contracts only because it is the lowest bidder. 

“We understand the city needs contractors to assist in making our streets and communities a better place,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of these contractors end up creating problems and safety issues while completing the jobs.”

Javier Gutierrez complained of poor work and delays on Old Highway 90 affecting his business.

“Our tax dollars should not go to businesses that do shabby work, and those who fail to meet the expectations of the city,” he said. “We do not need contractors who cut corners to get the job done.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.