OCEAN CITY – As City Council members approved a bid on deck lumber for phase one of the Boardwalk reconstruction, they began to back track in how far they have come in their decision of what material to use.
After reviewing the many bids submitted to provide the lumber to deck the new and improved Boardwalk, City Engineer Terry McGean recommended the apparent low bidder of Grasmick Lumber from Baltimore Md., in the amount of $602,650. The initial estimated cost for phase one was $621,000. McGean recommended Grasmick Lumber not only because of the low bid but because it has supplied Ocean City’s lumber in the past.
McGean also recommended the council approve a bid of an alternative decking material, Timbersil, at the amount of $40,469. The alternative material will be used to deck one block of the Boardwalk in order for long-term evaluation for a possibility in the Boardwalk’s future.
McGean plans to place the block of Timbersil between 15th and 16th streets because the area receives heavy foot and tram traffic to give it the ultimate test.
Timbersil is a lumber created through the fusion of wood and glass. The company claims it’s more stable, safer, and stronger. The product has a 40-year guarantee but the company has not been in existence more than a few years.
“I know the lumber [Timbersil] is twice as expensive but when I saw that you wanted to do a test block, I think that is a wonderful idea, that’s forward thinking,” Council President Jim Hall said.
Once McGean recommended the bids, he asked for one more request — to lock in the bids for phase one of the renovation because the price is the lowest it has been in over 20 years. Phase one is 27th to 15th streets and the Inlet to Somerset Street, which is to be completed by next summer.
According to McGean, in 1990 the town paid 54 cents a foot for deck lumber, and in 2008 it was 84 cents a foot. The bid price the town has received for the current renovation is 52 cents a foot.
Berlin Planning Commission member Ron Cascio spoke to the Mayor and City Council advocating the use of the Timbersil product and to give it a second look before approving any bids.
“Before the council commits to replacing the entire Boardwalk with any material, you need to fully appreciate the differences between treated materials, which are the standard stuff you see up there [Boardwalk] … versus Timbersil,” Cascio said. “Timbersil claims a life span of 40 years, the lumber currently on the Boardwalk lives a life of eight to 10 years.”
McGean disagreed with Cascio in the fact that Timbersil is stronger than standard wood.
“This company has a bit of a checkered past which is why I am hesitant to recommend to you all that we do the entire Boardwalk in this material,” McGean said. “While I agree that there are some significant advantages, if this material does what it says it’s going to do, but to me it’s a very big if.”
Councilman Doug Cymek suggested having Timbersil attend a council work session to present the product and its benefits.
In the past, McGean has presented the council with multiple presentations on several options of decking material to be used for the new Boardwalk. After much discussion and deliberation the council decided to stick to tradition and chose southern yellow pine.
“What do you want them to tell you?” Jim Hall said. “Terry [McGean] has studied and studied it. He wants to test it over time and that is what the most important thing is, is the time.”
Cymek responded he is afraid to make a decision that will ultimately cost the taxpayers more money instead of saving money on an alternative material.
Councilwoman Mary Knight felt as though Timbersil has had plenty of chances to prove itself to the town and didn’t deserve another.
“I’m glad we are going to put in the one block but I would feel almost a little uncomfortable giving this company a second chance,” she said. “We are the No. 4 boardwalk in the United States rated by AAA. If I was Timbersil I would have been…doing due diligence.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed with Cymek and also wanted to hear from Timbersil.
“I think the chance is not Timbersil’s chance, I think it’s the town’s chance,” she said. “I think we owe the town the chance to have the information.”
Councilman Joe Hall felt that Timbersil wouldn’t be able to tell the city anything that it hadn’t already heard.
“They are not going to come in here with the science because they haven’t existed long enough,” he said. “It’s whether you want to gamble the money for the increased cost for the increased life.”
McGean explained the importance of locking in the price with Grasmick for at least phase one. He said lumber prices change every day.
“To look at the lowest price we’ve had in 20 years and not jump on it I think is a mistake,” he said.
Knight set the compromising motion to lock in the price of 52 cents per foot of lumber for phase one and to have staff explore the costs with Grasmick for phase two. She added to accept the recommendation to construct one block of the Boardwalk using Timbersil decking and to invite the company to give an extended presentation on their product. The approved the motion in a 5-1 vote, with Pillas opposed.