Concord receives only one contractor bid for Main Street construction
North Main Street, Concord during Market Days; Thursday, July 19, 2012. (Alexander Cohn/ Monitor file)
Concord received an offer from only one contractor for its Main Street construction project, and it is double the price the city budgeted.
City Engineer Ed Roberge said the city will likely need to reissue its request for bids and construction will not begin this month as planned.
The city’s base estimate was $6.2 million for the streetscape construction, said Purchasing Manager Doug Ross. The only proposal received was $12.23 million, from Pembroke-based F.L. Merrill Construction. Representatives with the company declined to comment yesterday about their proposal and cost estimate.
Roberge said the lack of response from other contractors is due to poor timing; the bid was issued in the middle of construction season, when contractors are busy with other projects, he said. The schedule was set by the federal government, which contributed a $4.71 million grant for the Main Street project.
Representatives from several companies attended a pre-bid meeting last month, according to the city’s sign-in sheet from that day. And city officials have asked some contractors why they did not bid on the project, Roberge said.
“I think most would probably say they just didn’t . . . have time or the resources to put into coming up with this bid in the amount of time that they had, being busy,” he said. “We tend not to bid jobs at this time. . . . We also know we were on a strict time constraint with the federal government.”
But one company, S.U.R. Construction West in Winchester, said the city’s $6.2 million estimate seemed too low for the work, especially because it calls for nighttime construction and has other special requirements.
“I think $6 or 6.5 million would have been a tight number with everything that they had included there,” said Erika Payne, an estimator for the company. “But I don’t think that $12 (million) was reasonable.”
Payne said she did not submit a bid in part because her electrical estimate came in late. But she also struggled with the cost estimate.
“We didn’t have any complaints, I was just having a hard time getting it down to that $6 million range,” she said. “I like to provide a number that’s as close to the budget as possible.”
At Pike Industries, estimator Bethany Huckins said she did not submit a bid because the project involved more landscape and streetscape work than she expected; her company focuses on roadwork.
If the city reissues its request for bids, Roberge said he would use a slightly different selection and interview process to ensure that bidders are qualified for the work.
“We are confident that our budget estimates are solid and that we will successfully rebid the project,” he wrote in an email update about the bids yesterday morning.
Payne said S.U.R. Construction would be interested in considering the project again if the city asks for more proposals.
While construction on the new streetscape will now not begin until next April, Roberge said he does not expect a delay in the overall project, which is set to be completed by early 2015.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect it very much,” he said. “I can’t say ‘at all,’ because I don’t have a scope of work from a qualified contractor in hand, which is one of the things that we would need.”
A small amount of work was scheduled for this fall, from the end of September through the beginning of November. Work was set to stop before Thanksgiving, so it would not disrupt the holiday shopping season.
“We knew that we really weren’t going to be doing a lot of streetscape work this fall, particularly given the agreed-upon completion date (of early November),” Roberge said.
There will still be some construction downtown this fall; the project includes $2.5 million to move utilities underground on South Main Street. Though the city has not yet requested bids for that work, Roberge said the construction will begin in October and continue through early November.
The entire project, with a price tag of $10.35 million, will transform 12 blocks of downtown. Concord received its $4.71 million federal grant last year for the work.
Roberge said a delay in construction would not impact the federal grant money.
“The project funding at the federal level is fully obligated at this point . . . now we are just looking at a schedule change,” he said.
In June, the city council approved the final designs, which include reducing the street from four lanes to two lanes, widening sidewalks, improving accessibility and adding landscaping and public art. Many of the existing angled parking spaces on Main Street will be changed to parallel parking. One aspect of the project is still uncertain: A sidewalk snowmelt system depends on the future of Concord Steam; it would be powered by the utility’s waste heat. Most of the construction will be done between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to the city’s notice for contractors.
Last week was the deadline to submit proposals, and Roberge said he is still reviewing F.L. Merrill Construction’s submission. It has not yet been formally rejected.