‘Red Hot’ Construction Market Slows Public Works Building Bid Process

OCEAN CITY — A “red hot” construction market has delayed the bidding process for the new public works facility at 2nd Street, but a plan is in place for starting construction in the fall with a timeline for completion in spring 2019.

The new facility will eventually replace the town’s existing downtown public works complex at South First Street, which is nearing the end of its useful life. The facility at 2nd Street will serve, among other things, as the new staging and maintenance area for the Boardwalk trams. It will also house the beach cleaning operation along with other public works functions in the downtown area. It will be built on a property the town acquired last year for around $2 million along St. Louis Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets.

The design of the new public works facility at 2nd Street is largely completed and bid opening for the project was on Tuesday’s work session agenda.  However, Adkins said market forces caused him to pause the project again and regroup. Because of the altered timeline that won’t have the project needed until spring of 2019, Adkins said he had reconsidered moving forward with the bidding process.

“By doing so, it has created a very large buffer of time for me to put the bid back out,” he said. “As you can imagine, in my situation with a career spanning almost 34 years, I have a lot of contacts in the construction business, and I know a lot of the guys bidding this project.”

Adkins told the Mayor and Council on Tuesday when he consulted with some of the construction companies that were likely to bid, he learned an upswing in the market would likely result in prices over the proposed budget.

“What I realized as of about 48 hours ago is that the market is red hot right now,” he said. “As a result, what has happened now is many of the subcontractors they typically bid with are either not giving them bids, or the pricing is twice as much or even tripled.”

For that reason, Adkins said he wanted to pull back the bid opening scheduled for Tuesday.

“I started to realize what the numbers looked like and I reached out to [City Manager] Doug [Miller] and said I need to pull this off the agenda for right now,” he said. “I have a sinking feeling the pricing that would come in right now would be ridiculous.”

Adkins said the project’s design could be altered in an effort to keep the bids down, but what he was considering did not represent a major departure from what has already been presented.

“What I’m proposing to do is going forward with a design-build bid,” he said. “I would take the same documents I currently have and restructure them before putting them back out on the street. I would stick with the same floorplan, because that will work well, and I would stick with the same sight plan, because we beat that to death.”

According to Adkins, the design-bid option would require further review from the council and the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC).

“It gives us the flexibility with our own team to put together a submission, which I feel will drive the pricing down,” he said. “I would need to bring it back to the Mayor and Council because it might change appearance-wise and I would likely have to take it back to the OCDC, neither of which bothers me because we have the time to do so.”

While the delayed bid process does stretch out the timeline for the project, Adkins said he was confident he could still meet the desired finish line for the project of spring 2019.

“I envision bringing it back with a bid opening probably at the first meeting in May,” he said. “I can still stay on my timeline, but that’s where we stand. It’s unfortunate, but fortunately we have to time to do it.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.