High Dune Trail bids tripped up

City officials say contracting delay won’t affect projected construction dates

Hiring a contractor is the next objective in Ocean Shores’ quest to build the anticipated High Dune Trail, but that step was tripped up recently by a funding requirement from the Washington Department of Transportation.

The bid dilemma shouldn’t affect the city’s timeline for construction of the paved, wheelchair-accessible walking and biking path stretching from Damon Road to West Chance a la Mer, which should still break ground by June and be finished by October, according to Ocean Shores Grant Writer Sarah Bisson.

The city on Jan. 19 received seven contracting bids for the project, with the lowest from Brumfield Construction coming in at just under $1 million.

That’s slightly less than the city has allocated for the trail — $1.2 million — from a variety of sources, including WSDOT grants.

Since the project uses WSDOT funding allocated through the federal government, the bids were subject to the state’s review process before they could be presented to the city council.

One of those requirements is the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, or DBE. Contracts that use federal funding through state transportation departments must allocate a certain amount of the work to businesses with DBE certifications — small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged people.

For this project, 16% of the work had to be completed by DBE businesses, which is often done through subcontracts.

According to Bisson, WSDOT found that although leading bidders had allocated certain portions of the project to DBE businesses, those businesses were not eligible under their DBE certifications to complete the scope of work assigned to them, meaning the bids failed to meet the requirement.

Instead of reworking the contracts, the city is now forced to restart the bidding process, Bisson said, for which a new application period opened on Friday, March 17, and will last for two weeks.

Now, bidding could end up being more competitive, Bisson said, because contractors got a sneak peak at what their counterparts were offering. Previous bids ranged from $1 million to $2 million.

“It does give everyone an opportunity to tighten their pocket strings a little bit if they witness or have seen the other figures,” Bisson said.

Bisson said this is the first time she’s seen the DBE requirement trip up a bidding process, and said it was probably because the High Dune Trail involves many different types of work.

The trail will be a 10-foot-wide asphalt path stretching for 3,900 feet in length. Part of the trail — sections that pass over wetlands, an area totalling 335 feet — will be boardwalk.

Once contractors reapply, their bids will once again be subject to review. The city council will also have to give its stamp of approval on a final contract.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.