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Restriction Could Have Suppressed Bidding

In today’s Coast Star story, Mayor Doherty dismisses claims by Councilman Bean and former mayor Pringle that the provision in our bidding laws that requires bidders to participate in a state approved union apprenticeship program or pay journeyman’s wages was a factor in the 70% drop in the number of bidders on the second set of pavilion plans:

The responsible bidder language had no effect on the pavilion bidding process, according to Mayor Doherty.

The only thing that restricted what contractors would offer to bid, the mayor said, was the project labor agreement [PLA].

He noted that the final passage of the responsible bidder ordinance was passed on Feb. 18, he said, and the bids were received on Feb. 4. Furthermore, according to Mayor Doherty, the ordinance did not go into effect until March 10 — 20 days later.

“Basically, FEMA and state law requires that you pay a prevailing wage on projects using their money,” Mayor Doherty said. “What applied was the project labor agreement.”

“On both the boardwalk and the pavilions, in the bid specs, we put in something called a project labor agreement,” the mayor said.

The PLA requires contractors to guarantee they will pay a prevailing wage, the mayor said, which effectively “weeds out unscrupulous contractors.” It does so, according to the mayor, by guaranteeing contractors cannot bid low on a project, and then use cheap labor to cut costs.

First of all, Doherty says that the bids were received February 4th but that the offending ordinance wasn’t passed until February 18th.  But the ordinance’s introduction and first reading was on January 28th.  At that meeting I raised a big stink about it which the Coast Star reported on the following Thursday.  And actually that meeting was originally scheduled for January 21st.  (I don’t think a single meeting this year was held on the date it was originally supposed to be.)  I first was made aware of this ordinance when the agenda for that original meeting was made public on January 19th.  And some contractors may have heard rumors even earlier.

Also note that the clause allowing bidders to pay journeyman’s wages in lieu of supporting an apprenticeship program wasn’t added on until the evening the ordinance was passed.  So it’s possible that contractors may have had bids ready but decided not to send them because they weren’t part of an apprenticeship program and were not aware there would be another option.

Doherty attempts to shift the blame for the dearth of bidders on the latest plans to the Project Labor Agreement he enacted immediately after the storm.  That was a bunch of BS too, but it doesn’t explain why we got only three bids this time around when we got more than three times as many the first time we put this project out to bid.  The PLA was already in effect then.

Personally I think a lot of bidders are starting to think the Belmar pavilion project has become radioactive and they would just as soon not be involved with it.

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