DENVER – Debris removal for Marshall Fire victims is expected to start by March 1, Boulder County said Thursday after unanimously awarding the contract to a Louisiana-based company that said it believes it can complete the cleanup by July 1 barring any weather delays.
According to an RFP analysis and recommendation released by the county, Metairie, La., based DRC Emergency Services, LLC, was awarded the contract out of 11 different proposals, including ones from four Colorado-based companies. No cost was associated with the documents released Thursday.
ECC Constructors, LLC, based in Lakewood, was the other finalist, according to the document. But after hours of interviews, the committee of staff from Boulder County, Louisville and Superior selected DRC because it had the most competitive project cost terms and among the best timeline for the project schedule, the RFP recommendation says.
“The Committee believes that DRC is able to perform the project in an efficient and expeditious manner consistent with County goals and expectations,” the document says. “During its interview, DRC confirmed that it had sufficient resources to mobilize additional crews to complete the project by July 1, 2022, subject to circumstances outside DRC’s control (e.g. weather delays).”
The team said DRC’s proposal was the most cost reasonable on a per parcel basis and decided to award the contract based on DRC’s project schedule and the estimated completion date.
The RFP recommendation also lauded DRC’s experience involving other FEMA-declared disaster projects, which includes work on other large wildfires. It says several other bidders “lacked sufficient relevant experience.”
The references DRC got for three prior removal projects were “excellent,” according to the recommendation.
“References indicate that DRC has a history of coming in under budget and working to avoid delays, including completing projects early when possible,” the document says. “…The Committee believes that DRC is able to efficiently and expeditiously perform quality work in a cost reasonable manner.”
The bidders who did not win the contract will have 10 days to appeal the decision in accordance with county policy. Boulder County said during that period, it will complete contract negotiations with DRC, and the local jurisdictions will figure out which tasks will be completed first.
Once those things are decided, more information will be sent to property owners who have already signed a Right of Entry form for the debris removal program. The county has extended the deadline to submit those forms to 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14. More than 800 property owners have already opted in to the program.
The county also said that it heard back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency late Friday that FEMA would cover “much of the cost” associated with the debris removal program. Colorado’s U.S. senators and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, had asked for a 100% cost share from the federal government.
The county said FEMA asked the local jurisdictions to provide more information about the economic necessity of covering debris removal from partially destroyed homes and businesses and foundation removal after the fire.
“Boulder County, Louisville, and Superior are working together to provide additional information to FEMA as soon as possible,” the county said in a news release.
The state has said it would help share the cost of the 25% local match for FEMA grants if the federal government does not cover 100% of the costs.
The state’s website estimates home and business damage to be around $580 million, though officials have discussed estimates of up to $680 million and said the fire was the most destructive event in state history.
“This bid award is an important step in the recovery process and will allow huge progress towards rebuilding,” said Boulder County Commissioner Claire Levy.
While there is a collective sigh of relief among fire victims, it's still a long road to recovery.
“I think probably most people might be ready for that," said fire victim Lesley Draper.
"I think there's definitely going to be a sigh of relief when the debris removal actually begins,” said fire victim Christian Dino.
The county awarded the contract after a weeks-long bidding process that, at times, seemed to drag on and on for victims.
“I think people are very confused about what's going on and what's next and who's doing what and who's reimbursing who,” Draper said. “It's just a really overwhelming process."
Dino says this is a step in the right direction, but he's still very concerned about the City of Louisville's green rebuilding policy.
"What looms in front of us with the actual rebuilding and the reconstruction of our homes once those lots are cleared," Dino said. “I have reached out to several solar companies and received some solar bids for what it would take for a NetZero solar panel installation on-site and I’ve received a number coming in at around $45,000 to $50,000."
For Draper, it's about rebuilding costs and underinsurance.
“I'm not even sure I'm going to be able to afford to do it,” Draper said. “You know, I was just laughing like — maybe I'll put a tiny house on there.”