Park City spent nearly $44,000 as Treasure became an emergency
City Hall spent $43,956 to retain an engineering firm in December and January during a round of discussions about Treasure that was ultimately abandoned, describing the situation that led to the expenditure as an emergency that allowed officials to supersede the municipal government’s typical procurement process.
Matt Cassel, the Park City engineer, outlined the agreement with a firm called Ward Engineering Group in a report to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council published on Monday. The city engineer’s account illustrates the high-stakes nature of the negotiations as Park City officials and the Treasure side attempted to reach an agreement.
The expenditure was made at a time when City Hall and the Treasure partnership, consisting of the Sweeney family and a firm called Park City II, LLC, were negotiating a $30 million deal calling for the municipal government to acquire 50 percent of the development rights attached to the Treasure hillside. The deal involved City Hall acquiring the Sweeney family’s 50 percent stake in Treasure and Park City II, LLC redesigning a scaled-back project. The contract with Ward Engineering Group dealt with work related to studying a road and retaining walls that would have been required under a redesigned project. The results were presented to the public during the talks about a 50 percent acquisition.
It was a major breakthrough in the long-running discussions about Treasure. The Treasure partnership by that time had spent more than a decade in on-and-off discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about the project with little progress as the panel remained concerned with issues like traffic and the project designs. Park City’s elected leaders at the time saw the opportunity to acquire a 50 percent stake as a solution to the Treasure dispute. The deal would have hinged on a $24 million ballot measure. It would have been put to voters in November.
By late January, though, City Hall and Treasure reached another agreement calling for the municipal government to acquire the Treasure land and attached development rights outright for $64 million. The January deal supplanted the earlier one that required the work by Ward Engineering Group. It will be put on the ballot in November as City Hall asks voters to approve between $50 million and $55 million of the total.
In the report to the elected officials, the city engineer described tight deadlines during the discussions that resulted in the $30 million deal for the 50 percent stake. The municipal procurement policy requires a bid process and approval by the City Council of any contract topping $25,000 or one with a cumulative dollar figure of more than $25,000. The City Council also must approve expenditures topping $15,000 that are not contained in the budget. There is an exception, however, for contracts that are deemed emergencies. The Ward Engineering Group work fell under the exception, according to the report.
“The City was under a significant time crunch to evaluate the possible development on the Treasure in order to evaluate the settlement proposal,” the report says, describing that staffers contacted another firm to conduct the work, but it did not have the resources over the holidays.
Officials then tapped Ward Engineering Group. The firm started the work prior to the contract being finalized based on the “extremely short time frame provided,” the report says.
“Because of the tight time frame and with the constantly changing scope of work as new alternatives were being proposed, there was no reasonable way to stop the analysis and obtain City Council prior approval without jeopardizing moving forward with the settlement agreement,” Cassel says in the report.
City Hall intends to tap a self-insurance fund to cover the $43,956. The report indicates the self-insurance fund is a proper source since the work was undertaken as officials were negotiating what would have been a settlement agreement involving the acquisition of a 50 percent stake.
The Treasure land is located on a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift. The Sweeney family in the 1980s secured an overall development approval for the Treasure land and nearby parcels. The family later sold a 50 percent stake to Park City II, LLC, creating the partnership.
An attorney representing a critic of Park City’s plans to build restricted affordable housing in Old Town sent a letter urging officials to meet the same standards that would be required of a private-sector developer in the neighborhood.