By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“This just stinks,” Councilwoman Candace Pratt said Monday after reading bids that were in some cases double the cost estimated by city staff.
The council approved two contracts with Lakeside Industries of Port Angeles: one for $231,580 worth of pavement rehabilitation and one for $119,612 to bring sidewalks into compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.
Lakeside was the only firm to bid on either job.
“Once again, we have only one bidder,” Councilman Ted Miller said.
“I think we’re very fortunate that Lakeside Industries doesn’t take advantage of its near-monopoly to gouge us.”
Pratt, though, felt the city was being gouged for street repairs.
She voted against awarding Lakeside the pavement contract, noting the city could do more projects with the difference between Lakeside’s quote and the estimated cost.
“We’re pinching every penny, and this doesn’t look like we’re pinching the right pennies,” Pratt said.
George Peabody, manager of Lakeside’s Port Angeles branch, said asphalt and concrete prices are elevated because of the current high price of oil.
“You’ve seen the price of diesel and gas right now, haven’t you?” he asked. “It’s all petroleum-based.”
The firm’s bid, he said, was prepared without the knowledge it would be the only bidder for Sequim’s projects.
“I just want to do the job. This is what I thought it cost,” Peabody said. “I can’t help it if nobody else bid the job.”
Bids over estimate
Bids on two parts of that project, bituminous surface treatments of West Prairie Street and West Maple Street, came in at $84,200 and $40,020, respectively.
Those two quotes were a combined $57,300 over the estimated costs of $49,200 for Prairie Street and $17,720 for Maple.
In addition to the work on Prairie and Maple streets, the pavement preservation plan calls for overlays of sections of South Third Avenue, $72,720, and West McCurdy Road, $34,640.
“I wish you’d just withdraw [the Prairie Street work] and put it out to bid again,” Pratt said.
“We could do another McCurdy with that difference.”
Councilwoman Genaveve Starr abstained from the vote, which passed with four affirmative votes from the rest of the council.
Starr said she would like to put off the work until next year, but since the maintenance needed to be done, she withheld her vote.
The sidewalk contract was unanimously approved.
It calls for $47,450 to install ADA-compliant driveways and ramps on sidewalks along Seventh Avenue from Washington Street to Spruce and $71,162 for ADA-compliant ramps on East Washington Street sidewalks between Dunlap Street and Brown Road.
Starr asked if the city should delay the work until next year, with the hopes of finding a better bidding climate.
City Engineer David Garlington said pushing work back a year would worsen the condition of those streets, meaning more costly repairs later, and deferred maintenance to other roads that could be repaired instead.
Garlington said the city has had a hard time getting more than one bidder for projects this year.
Garlington said most local firms are tied up working subcontracts on the state’s project to widen U.S. Highway 101 from two lanes to four between Shore and Kitchen-Dick roads.
Garlington also noted that Lakeside has a bidding advantage because it owns an asphalt plant.
County zoning laws, he said, are too cumbersome for new firms to build new competing plants.
“We have a problem — and it’s going to be a long-term problem,” Garlington said.
He was hopeful economic incentives would hold prices down in the future.
“If the answer is that the city doesn’t award contracts, that’s no good for the bidder, either,” he said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.