The Main Street makeover project in Northeast Harbor is to include removal of the traffic island in front of Neighborhood House and the squaring off of the intersection. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

‘Select’ firms given shot at street project

MOUNT DESERT — The town is giving five “select” contractors the opportunity to submit construction bids for Northeast Harbor’s Main Street makeover project rather than opening the bidding process to all.

A policy requiring that town construction projects be publicly advertised was waived by the Board of Selectmen on Feb. 5 at the request of Public Works Director Tony Smith.

“This form of bidding for construction services is common practice with the intent of hiring a qualified contractor that has experience in the type of work being offered, has appropriate experienced staffing, can pay attention to schedules and is willing to work with the project owner,” Smith said in a Feb. 2 memo to Town Manager Durlin Lunt.

The request for bids went out last week. The bid opening is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Smith said the town’s legal counsel had found nothing in the town charter that prohibits the use of a select bidders list. And since the requirement to publicly advertise projects is part of the purchasing policy that the selectmen adopted, the selectmen can waive that policy for a given project.

Smith said in his memo to Lunt that there were several reasons for his request to use a select bidders list. One is that bids need to be received and reviewed very quickly if the dollar amount for the Main Street project is to be included on the warrant for the May 7 town meeting.

“I prefer to present a real cost to the voters … not work from an engineer’s estimate,” Smith said.

“If we can expedite the bid process, we will have additional time to work with the low bidder to possibly reduce project costs if we so desire.”

He said that once a contractor is selected, developing a construction schedule will be critical to the success of the project.

“We need to work with someone we have experience with and that is professional enough to understand our concerns, large enough to handle the scope of the work and able to develop a construction schedule that will work for all of us,” he wrote in the memo.

“The scheduling for this project is probably more critical than money,” Smith told the selectmen.

He said the contractors to whom bid documents were sent were selected with input from engineering firm CES Inc., and are those with whom the town or CES has worked successfully in the past.

In addition to those, Smith said that “as a courtesy,” he would ask a couple of local contractors if they were interested in bidding.

“If they want to, they’ll go on the list, but I don’t think they’re large enough to handle the work.”

Voters at last year’s town meeting authorized spending up to $274,000 for engineering and design services for the Main Street project. In July, the town awarded a contract for that work to a partnership of three engineering and architectural firms. Brewer-based CES Inc. was the lead firm.

A preliminary estimate of the Main Street project’s construction cost was $1.6 million.

The project includes reconfiguring the intersections at both ends of the street, widening the sidewalk on the west side of the street and building a new sidewalk on the east side. The proposed second phase of the downtown improvement project would include changes outside of the Main Street corridor.

“We’re going to get the chance to do this project once,” Smith told the selectmen. “And phase two more than likely hinges on the success of phase one.”



Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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