City accepts bid for wellhouse rehabilitation

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Blaine city council accepted a bid for the rehabilitation of one of the city’s wellhouses, ahead of the hot and dry summer months when water will be in high demand.

At their March 9 regular meeting, councilmembers voted 6-0 (Garth Baldwin was excused) to accept the lowest responsive bid and authorize the city manager to enter into a unit price contract with Larry Brown Construction Inc. in the amount of $312,802.

“I’m pleased to bring forward the results and a request for council award for Wellhouse 5,” said Blaine public works director Ravyn Whitewolf, introducing the action item to councilmembers. “This is one of the projects that I mentioned would be coming down the road to you at our last project update. The wellhouse is actually in severe disarray, with aging electrical, controls and so forth. This is a project we’ve been working on for a couple of years. We want to get it built before we get into our peak water season.”

The project’s improvements will consist of well capacity improvements, construction of a precast concrete wellhouse, site grading and drainage and driveway construction. In addition, the contractor will furnish and install wellhead piping and valves, a well pump, electrical and control systems and about 40 feet of eight-inch ductile iron pipe with eight-inch gate valves, connecting into the existing transmission line.

“It includes furnishing a new pump as well as all the electrical and controls,” Whitewolf told councilmembers. “We call it a VFD or variable frequency drive that enables us to use the well with different speeds and different horsepower of the pumps.”

After inviting bids from contractors, Blaine public works staff opened four sealed bids on February 26. The lowest responsive bid was from Larry Brown Construction, whose bid was in the amount of $312,802, above the engineer’s estimate of $289,870. The next lowest bid was from J. Ritter Dirt & Asphalt LLC in the amount of $312,814 – just $12 more than Larry Brown’s bid.

The proximity of the two lowest bids prompted further council discussion. “The bids were very, very close,” Whitewolf observed. “It was rather shocking. We don’t see a whole lot of that. I will say that when we do see bids that are that tight or that close together, we as engineers look at that and think, ‘Wow, the bid package must be pretty good’ because it’s got two bidders that well aligned from different houses.”

After some councilmembers inquired about the city’s discretion to accept bids other than the lowest bid, Whitewolf and city attorney Jon Sitkin confirmed that the city is almost always required to award a contract to the lowest responsive bid.

Whitewolf said that the contract bidding and award process is governed by very specific laws. “It’s a really fact-dependent situation in every bidding, and you don’t look at it in retrospect, because you’ve set the bid specifications on the front end before you receive the bids,” Sitkin added.

After the bid was awarded, a formal award and tabulation was sent to the contractor and other interested parties. The project is budgeted in the capital program for the city’s water fund, Fund 410.

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