Downtown: Concord officials hopeful for third attempt to bid Main Street project
That’s the number of general contractors who have expressed an interest in Concord's Main Street construction project so far, during the city’s third attempt to bid the job.
“We are, I think, hopeful that it will be a successful process,” said Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development.
But after the first two tries, that doesn’t mean much.
Those eight contractors attended a recent meeting required for any firms that want to submit a proposal for the construction work.
The first time around, the number of contractors at a similar required meeting also was eight.
The second, eight again.
But at the deadline for both prior attempts, only one of those contractors made an offer. And on both occasions, that offer came in at nearly double the city’s estimate.
The next deadline is Friday.
“We’ll obviously know much better then,” Baia said.
The Main Street project would redesign and rebuild 12 blocks of the downtown corridor, which the city projected would cost $10.35 million. A $4.71 million federal grant is supposed to cover part of that bill, and during its last
request for bids, the city’s estimate for construction was $7.1 million.
Upon Friday’s deadline, the city won’t get a firm price estimate, broken down into costs for items such as sidewalk slabs or light poles. In February, the city council gave staff and consultant engineering firm McFarland Johnson permission to use an alternative bidding process that allows for more negotiation.
Instead, any contractor that participates will submit its qualifications and a description of its approach to the Main Street project – including details such as the time of day the work would be done, or how the crews would accommodate downtown parking and traffic. Then, city staff will negotiate with a contractor to come up with a project scope and price, which would need to go to the council for approval.
That alternative process is what brought contractor Glenn Cairns, vice president of Windham-based George Cairns and Sons, to the table. He plans to submit a proposal Friday.
“It’s a new innovative way to collaborate on projects, and I just think it’s an interesting way to bid,” Cairns said.
Even though this is the city’s third attempt to bid the project, this is the first time Cairns has looked at the multimillion-dollar construction job.
“It’s a typical street reconstruction project,” Cairns said.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s typical.”
Erika Payne, a project manager and estimator at Rochester-based S.U.R. Construction West Inc., said she has followed the Main Street project from its beginning. Payne didn’t participate during the first round because she said she didn’t have enough time to assemble her bid, and she missed a required pre-bid meeting during the second round.
But this time, Payne said her proposal will make it to the city Friday.
“This project has been a long time in the making,” she said.
Payne said her first experience with this alternative bidding process has been positive.
“I think it’s a good option,” she said. “Hopefully they can find a contractor that they can really partner with and work with them to get to the budget they really need.”
The two firms that made offers in the past – F.L. Merrill of Pembroke and E.D. Swett of Concord – aren’t among the general contractors that signed in at the required meeting. But five of the eight contractors who could submit proposals this week haven’t participated before.
“From our perspective, it’s always good to have as many contractors as possible participate,” Baia said. “We were pleasantly surprised to see new names because that shows there’s interest out there.”
City Engineer Ed Roberge described the pre-proposal meeting as “well-attended,” saying he hoped to see positive results Friday.
“I think we have interested contractors,” he said last week.
City Manager Tom Aspell was more cautious.
“Based on the pre-bid meetings, you never know,” Aspell said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)