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BB commission divided on pier bids, contract

By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

William Sowa, an attorney representing Pac Comm, and Steve Liebel of Duncan Dock and Seawall field questions about their pier construction bids from Bradenton Beach during the May 22 meeting at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N. Islander Photo: Merab Favorite

Two contractors faced-off May 22 in Bradenton Beach for a chance to reconstruct the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Representatives from Duncan Dock and Seawall and Pac Comm Inc. defended their bid proposals as Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry questioned them during the commission meeting.

The commission voted 3-2 —with Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Janie Robertson opposed — to award the contract to Duncan Dock and Seawall. Duncan’s bid is $150,000 more and has a longer projected time duration than Pac Comm’s bid.

“Our main concern with Pac Comm was not the cost but the time and duration of the construction,” city official Steve Gilbert said. “Almost all of these companies were between 140-175 days for their construction schedule. Pac Comm is committed to 100 days.”

Gilbert said 100 days is not a viable schedule during hurricane season.

“We are going to have thunderstorms in the afternoons and you don’t operate cranes in the water when there is lightning,” Gilbert said.

However, John Huit, senior project manager of Pac Comm, defended his schedule.

“We’ve run the numbers and we know what we can do in the allotted time,” he said.

Huit said the time frame would require an extension in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm but would not require additional time for thunderstorms.

Steve Libel, co-owner of Duncan Dock and Seawall in Sarasota, said his schedule included “storm days” and, if the weather permits, the company could finish early.

Gilbert also was concerned that Pac Comm planned for eight employees to be on the job per day, where as Duncan Dock and Seawall guaranteed 18-35 workers.

Huit answered that “only so many people can fit on a barge at once.”

When the bids were opened April 21, Pac Comm was the front-runner, with the lowest bid of five companies.

But, Duncan ascended to the top when pier team members learned Duncan would include installation of the electrical elements on the pier.

In the interim, Pac Comm said they would do the electrical as well, but Duncan submitted a bid proposal for the work.

Duncan also is locally based and its representatives have worked with Bradenton Beach public works on previous projects.

Pac Comm is based in Miami, but has had a local presence in the area for the past year while working on the Wares Creek-Bradenton dredging project.

Gilbert and pier team member Karen Wilson of ZNS Engineering conducted a series of interviews with the company representatives before making a recommendation to commissioners.

Although Pac Comm had the lowest bid, shortest time duration and qualified for a local preference, it was not among the two companies recommended May 22.

Members of the pier committee recommended Tampa Bay Marine of Gibsonton and Duncan.

“We are comfortable with both companies responses during the interview and particularly with their attention to detail in formulating both the bid responses as well as their work and staging plans,” Gilbert said.

Commissioners dismissed Tampa Bay Marine because there was no representative at the commission meeting.

William Sowa, an attorney representing Pac Comm, made a presentation during public comment to put Pac Comm back in the running.

Sowa asked the commission to postpone its decision.

“We understand we are not being recommended and we object,” Sowa said. “We were the most qualified bidder based upon a matrix (ZNS Engineering) generated, and we believe we are the best choice for the job.”

Robertson expressed disappointment that the pier team had recommended two companies instead of one.

“I’m not really qualified to decide this, you were supposed to make the recommendation,” she told Gilbert.

Vosburgh leaned toward awarding the contract to Pac Comm, but asked to table the decision.

However Commissioner Jack Clarke and Mayor Bill Shearon said they wanted to make a decision to prevent any further delay.

“Well it might be delayed, but Pac Comm would have it done a lot faster,” Vosburgh said.

“I don’t know how much more due diligence we can do,” Shearon said. “By the time we do more interviews we are going to be a month behind and instead of starting at the beginning of hurricane season, it would be the height of hurricane season.”

Clarke made the motion to award the contract to Duncan and it passed.

“Pac Comm invested a lot of time on this and did everything above and beyond what was required,” Sowa said. “We are disappointed that the commission chose the third- or fourth-highest bidder instead of us. We had the lowest bid and we are also local.”

The pier renovation will be funded through a joint effort by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and Manatee County government.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council recommended spending up to $1 million in matching funds for the project from tourist development tax, also known as the bed tax. It is a 5 percent tax collected on accommodations in the county of six months or less.

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