The city was prepared last night to award a contract for the first phase of reconstruction of the boardwalk’s south end. But after a possible issue with that contractor’s bid came to light, the city will accept bids once more and vote on a winner in an special meeting on Monday.
At last night’s city council workshop meeting, city engineer Joe Cunha brought the council up to speed on the bids, which the city received yesterday in the morning. Six companies and contractors bid on repairs to the boardwalk, which was damaged in Hurricane Sandy last year.
The bids ranged from $600,860 to $945,665. The city was prepared to vote on awarding the contract to the lowest bidder, F & P Contractors Inc. of South Amboy.
The second lowest bidder, Tekton Development of New Brunswick, came in at $684,691. Craig Polizzi, Tekton Development’s project manager, approached the microphone during public comment to explain why he felt the lowest bid should be rejected.
The low bidder failed to name subcontractors for the electrical and ornamental steel work involved in the project, Polizzi said. This is cause for automatic rejection of the bid, as it is a material defect, he said.
“It’s clearly listed on your bid form that names and addresses of subcontractors are required by state statute. It’s essential and non-waivable,” Polizzi said.
Polizzi had raised those issues and others with the city midday yesterday after the bids came in, city attorney Fred Raffetto said, but “most of the issues raised were deemed to be non-material defects.”
F & P Contractors will be performing the electrical and steel work on their own, Raffetto said, so naming subcontractors in those categories was not necessary.
But according to Polizzi, that contractor is not licensed by the Department of Community Affairs [DCA] to perform steel work or electrical work.
F & P Contractors’ project manager Lou Pacheco said in a phone call today that the minor steel work did not require a special license, and that there is “really no electric work to be done” on the project.
At the meeting, Cunha said most of the other contractors seeking the job did not name subcontractors for steel or electrical work, either. Also, the electrical and steelwork was optional, depending on whether a contractor felt it necessary to remove railings and light fixtures to finish the job, Cunha said. This was established by the use of the word “may,” rather than “shall,” in the bid form, he said.
But Polizzi said the word “shall” was used, implying that the work on the lights and railings was necessary.
Raffetto and Cunha talked amongst themselves after the public comment session. When it came time to vote on the bids, Raffetto advised the council to hold off on the vote and instead hold a special meeting on Monday.
“Obviously, this is an incredibly important project,” Raffetto said. “The bids were opened this morning. The protest [from the second lowest bidder] was received midday today, and I received a letter from an attorney representing the protestor while I was here during executive session.”
The city reviewed the issues today, and found that four of the five issued raised amounted to minor irregularities, not considered to be bid defects. But the issue of not naming subcontractors may be a defect. Legally, a qualified contractor is allowed to perform the subcontracting work. But if the low bidder is not qualified, as Polizzi had indicated in his comments, bids must be re-submitted, Raffetto said.
The council will accept bids again and hold a special meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. to vote on bidders.
Pacheco, project manager for the lowest bidder, said the allegations amounted to nothing more than “hearsay” from the second-lowest bidder.
“We know what the rules are,” Pacheco said in a phone call today. “In this case, there’s no electric, so why even make an issue of it? Asbury Park has got a great city engineer and attorney. I’m sure everyone does their job great. At the end of the day, I’m sure they’ll do what’s best for the city.”
The materials for the project are being procured separately. The city received one bid for materials, and that bid contained “failed material defects,” Cunha said. He asked that the city authorize another bid for materials.
The mayor recently announced that the boardwalk would be open by May 18. Workers “should be okay with those constraints in place,” Cunha said. “The contract explicitly says it must be completed by May 17.”