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St. Jerome’s Latin text around AD 400 said, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

At our March 18 council meeting, we received an update on the Gourmet Alley project and approved the bid by the General Contractor Trinchero Construction. You would have thought this would be a moment to celebrate a new project meant to invigorate and create a new pedestrian walkway downtown. 

Although the project received unanimous approval by the council, there was much consternation voiced by a few council members that has led many in the community to think that staff did a poor job.

During the council meeting on Aug. 15, 2022, Item 8.1 was introduced. It recommended the approval of CSG Consultants to provide the design and construction management for the project, and a timeline was given. Without notable hesitation, the council approved this work. 

I have closely tracked this project over the past 18 months, and have not withheld questions for staff, especially as we’ve received updates during council meetings. My rigorous attention to it has aided my evaluations and formed my understanding of the project’s end game.

My position as a council member aside, I have been in construction my entire adult life. I understand the complexities and nuances of construction—from the realization of an idea, to securing the funds and seeing the building process to fruition. In that process, the one other crucial component besides money is always time. 

What we’ve seen in the last few years is the inflationary rising costs of both material and labor, which impacts the bottom line. I have seen projects I have bid come back and rebid two or three times to reduce the scope and bring the overall cost into line with an affordable budget—a process that takes longer and is more costly with less output at the end of the day.

And let me remind everyone that there was no money allocated for this project in any CIP budget. It’s grant money and we’ve got to use it, or we lose it. 

Staff worked with Caltrans to get the extension in a timely manner before the contract was awarded. This built in a necessary buffer. Projects on an existing site spanning over a couple blocks can—and often do—lead to unforeseen issues. It’s imperative to point out that, in recent months, the city performed work in the alley to repair and mitigate any potentially vulnerable sewer lines.

The city has done everything to prepare for this project. After evaluating the project, asking extensive questions if concerns arose, and factoring in the city’s anticipation and action, I am extremely comfortable with the result and feel very encouraged. 

We should view the culmination of this vision, advancement and preparedness as a win for our staff, led by our city administrator, not as a negative. 

It’s going to be vital to the downtown and beneficial to the businesses of that area. And yes, the railway alley will be taken care of. I’ve been assured by staff about that. We just need to let the process continue and we’ll see it done in a timely manner. At the end of the day, it’ll be a project of which we’ll all be proud.

So, the answer to my opening proverb is when receiving a gift be grateful for what it is; don’t imply you wished for more by assessing its value.

Tom Cline

Gilroy City Council member

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