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South End Beach Project Delayed by Bid Protest

Posted on May 5, 2016

By Steve Reid, Longboat Key News

The much anticipated beach renourishment project for the sand starved north and south ends of Longboat Key has been delayed.

Last week, Norfolk Dredging Company won the bid from the town to dredge Longboat and New Pass and spread about 500,000 cubic yards on the south end of the Key first, and then the north end.

Norfolk was chosen for the project by the Town with a $6.5 million bid and was due to start in August.

That is all on hold because on April 26 Ferreira Construction Southern Division Company filed a bid protest accusing the town of disqualifying its bid using “arbitrary and capricious” reasoning.

Ferreira Construction submitted a bid of $5.7 million for the project, about $780,000 lower than Norfolk Dredging.

According to town bidding regulations, the town must choose the lowest qualifying bidder. The town did not choose Ferreira because it deemed its bid as “non-responsive” because it lacked a United States Coast Guard waiver to operate certain waters. The town also said that the firm’s bid package did not contain projects of similar size and scope to the town’s project.

Ferreira Construction wrote in its bid protest that no such waiver is required and they submitted a letter from the Coast Guard supporting their assertion.

In a conversation with Longboat Key News, Mayor Jack Duncan said he had total confidence in the town manager’s evaluation of the bids and his basis for choosing Norfolk Dredging. But Duncan added, “I do not necessarily have that same confidence in our consultant. We went to our engineers, Olsen Associates, and they wrote the specifications for the bid.”

Duncan said that in conversations with Town Manager Dave Bullock, Bullock said that in order to limit the delay to one month and keep the issue out of court, the town needs to tighten up the bid specifications and re-bid the beach project contract.

Duncan said that his understanding of the U.S. Coast Guard specification is that it requires a vessel must be ocean approved and able to travel in open waters with large seas. But the Coast Guard, he added, has said that specification does not apply to this permit and a contractor’s boat or dredge does not have to meet that stringent requirement. He added that the town could challenge Ferreira Construction in court, and probably win, but the delay could be protracted.

“It is simpler to tighten up the specs and re-bid,” said Duncan.

Duncan expects Bullock to bring the issue to the commission on Monday with an update and the suggestion of re-bidding.

Under town code, when a bid protest is received, the town manager must appoint a Protest Dispute Committee to evaluate the protest. That committee will eventually make a recommendation to the town manager.

Ultimately, whether to re-bid the project or which contractor is chosen is up to the town manager who is bound by town regulation to pick the lowest bidder. That leaves the options of fighting the bid protest, awarding the bid to Ferreira or opting to re-bid. The town has the right in this circumstance to cancel the award and re-bid if it so chooses.

Source: Longboat Key News

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