City rejects construction bids for playground


By Steve Guntli

The Marine Park playground project is facing some setbacks, but the city is confident it will still open in time for the Fourth of July.

Acting on a staff recommendation, Blaine City Council voted 7–0 on April 27 to reject two site preparation bids which  were far over the budgeted amount.

The city reached out to 12 contractors in the area but only received bids from Moceri Construction of Bellingham and Williamson Construction Company of Deming. The companies submitted bids for approximately $110,000 and $113,000, respectively. The city engineer had earlier estimated site preparation would cost $60,000.

Deputy community planner Alex Wenger said the city is working on cost-cutting measures and would hope to receive new bids closer to the estimate. Wenger said the city isn’t altering the size or design of the playground itself, but is looking for more economical building materials. Some items, like concrete picnic table pads and sidewalks, may be cut out of the plan and installed at a later date.

Meanwhile, the playground equipment has been delivered, and is sitting in a fenced-in area near the construction site on Marine Drive.

At the parks and cemetery board regular meeting on April 16, board member Angie Dixon stressed how important it was to complete the playground before the July 4 festivities. “We can’t have the park all roped off and messy on our busiest weekend of the year,” she said.

Wenger said the city is still aiming for a July 1 opening for the playground, but admits it will be tight.

“This setback may have cost us a number of weeks,” he said. “I’m still confident we can hit that goal, but it may be a little more challenging. The site prep itself doesn’t require that much work. It’ll probably be a couple weeks of work when it’s all said and done. We won’t go forward until we get more bids.”

Mayor Harry Robinson was visibly frustrated at the large discrepancy between the estimated and actual costs of the site prep.

“How do we know that $110,000 isn’t a legitimate bid?” he said. “Both bids were pretty close. How do we know our engineer wasn’t out to lunch?”

Wenger said the discrepancies stemmed from a lack of clarity in the city’s bid proposal. The proposal document was highly technical and nearly 100 pages, and some of the bids on individual items showed some confusion on the part of the contractors. For example, Moceri bid $3,650 for traffic control, while Williamson bid more than $17,596 for the same item. The city engineer estimated $5,000 for traffic control.

City staff has consulted with Pacific Surveying and Engineering to simplify and clarify the bid proposal. Wenger said the city will reopen for bids on Thursday, April 30 and will contact local contractors within the week.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to work with some local businesses for this project,” he said.

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