Denver, CO

Denver Parks wants $9 million more for controversial on-call contracts

David Heitz
Martin Luther King Park in Denver recently expanded its playground.David Heitz/NewsBreak

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The Denver Parks and Recreation Department asked a City Council committee to approve $9 million in on-call contracts despite council concerns over the practice.

The Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will vote Tuesday on whether to award nine contracts for $1 million each. A full council vote is not required unless a council member requests it.

The contracts do not guarantee work but allow the parks department to make purchase orders for projects as needed. Those projects include park restoration, natural resource management and other technical services.

If approved by the council committee, the following companies would receive contracts:

· Biohabitats

· Cedar Creek Associates Inc.

· Dudek

· ERO Resources Corp.

· GEI Consultants

· Habitat Management Inc.

· Natural Resource Services, Inc.

· Pinyon Environmental Inc.

· Smith Environmental and Engineering, Inc.

February on-call contracts dust-up

In February, Councilmember Amanda Sawyer expressed concern over on-call contracts in the Parks and Recreation Department. At that time, she and Councilmember Chris Hinds voted no on $17 million worth of the contracts.

During the discussion, City Council President Stacie Gilmore, who is married to Parks and Recreation Director Scott Gilmore, dropped out of the Zoom meeting.

City Council President Pro Tem Jamie Torres stepped in during what Gilmore called a Zoom glitch. When it came time to vote, Gilmore reappeared. She voted yes on the contracts.

Sawyer said on-call contracts do not require city departments to explain how they spend the money.

DOTI demonstrates transparency

Sawyer expressed frustration that departments asked the council to approve around 100 on-call contracts during the past year. She began approving on-call contracts with the Department of Transportation Infrastructure because that department has become more transparent. It gives the council reports every three months on balances and shows how the department uses on-call contracts.

City Council member Debbie Ortega also appreciates the quarterly updates. She asked parks and recreation to make a similar commitment.

A representative of the Parks and Recreation Department apologized to the council in February for not reaching a higher level of reporting.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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