The council voted 4-1 (Councilman Jim Frazier dissenting) at last Tuesday’s meeting to hire a project manager from Ascent Builders, which is already in the process of building Carpaccio’s Italian restaurant.
“Knowing that Manuel’s Five Star Restaurants has selected Ascent Builders, Inc. as the general contractor for the construction of the Carpaccio’s restaurant, Ascent will be on site and has the construction management expertise to assist with the coordination of the various other components of the Downtown Revitalization Project,” wrote City Manager Bryan Montgomery in the council staff report.
Ascent Builders built Oakley City Hall and the new fire station on O’Hara Avenue. Despite the prior relationship between the builders and the city, Frazier wanted to seek applicants for the project manager position rather than going with Ascent just because the firm is already on site.
“Yeah, they’ve done a good job, but in this economy, we’ve got great people in our area who are losing their homes,” Frazier said. “They (residents) pull their business licenses here, and I think we owe them the opportunity to do a project in their own city. Ascent may have the best proposal, but I want to show the residents that we made the effort.”
The other councilmembers, concerned that a lengthy hiring process would delay the completion of Carpaccio’s – and its anticipated opening this fall – sided with Montgomery.
The city had planned to oversee the project itself, but the state-mandated elimination of Oakley’s redevelopment agency increased the city staff’s workload to the exclusion of the downtown project’s oversight.
Frazier also found himself in the minority later in the evening when the council opted to give Ascent Builders the green light to build the adjacent retail space next to Carpaccio’s.
This time Frazier was joined by Councilman Randy Pope, who agreed that the retail project should go out to bid. Montgomery told the council that putting Ascent in charge of the project would allow for the simultaneous completion of Carpaccio’s and the surrounding retail space.
Mayor Kevin Romick said it would be advantageous to build the retail area despite the lack of a secured tenant, allowing prospective businesses to assess the setting before committing to locate there.
Pope favored keeping the city’s integrity intact above all. “This is a public project and we’ve been using Ascent a lot. I want to avoid any type of favoritism. If Ascent is giving us the best bang for our buck, then their bid is going to win, and they’ll get to do it anyway, but we owe it to our own integrity to no show favoritism.”
The council ultimately voted 3-2 to allow Ascent Builders to move ahead with the retail project.