OCEAN CITY — Perhaps the most unique element of the construction of the new public works facility on 2nd Street, the contract for which was approved this week, is that it will be built by armed services veterans.
On Monday, the Mayor and Council got a review of the bid recommendations for the new public works complex on a town-owned property along 2nd Street and St. Louis Avenue. 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 eventually 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.
On Monday, Public Works Director Hal Adkins presented the results of a bid review for the project estimated at a cost of around $3.8 million and recommended the contract be awarded to Delmarva Veteran Builders, a Salisbury firm with a workforce largely made up of armed services veterans. Not only was Delmarva Veteran Builders the low bidder in the process, but the fact the majority of its employees were veterans was not lost on the council, which ultimately approved the bid.
Delmarva Veteran Builders President Chris Eccelston explained the company was founded in 2013 as a means to provide meaningful, well-paying jobs for veterans transitioning out of military service. The company currently has 23 employees, about 65 percent of which are military veterans.
“They bring a unique skill set and attitude to our workforce,” said Eccelston. “They are very mission and goal oriented, which is a nice transition for our vets coming out and entering the construction business.”
Eccleston said after just five years into existence, the company has completed numerous projects in the area and around the lower shore and is gaining a solid reputation already.
“About one third of our business is repeat business,” he said. “I think that speaks well to who we are and where we are as a business.”
The bidding process for the 2nd Street public works complex has had its ups and downs. Adkins provided a brief overview of how the bidding process for the project had gotten to the point of Monday’s bid recommendation. He explained that last year, the town had an approved bid with a different company, but that he soon became aware the other company was designing a complex with a different scale and a different price tag that what was anticipated for the project.
“As we worked our way through the process, it started to come to my attention that what had been done for us was far, far, far beyond what we envisioned spending nor needed to spend for this project,” he said. “At that time, the number we were approaching was more like $4.8 million to $5.2 million.”
As a result, Adkins and the town put the brakes on that proposed project and issued a new request for proposal (RFP). Four companies submitted lump-sum bids for the 2nd Street public works complex and the recommendation from Adkins and staff was awarding the contract to Delmarva Veteran Builders.
“We cancelled that first bid and gained permission to move forward with another whole concept,” said Adkins. “We are going to use the same basic site plan and the same basic floor plan. We wanted to let the contractor partner with the architect to put a degree of creativity on what was proposed.”
The firm working with the design of the 2nd Street complex is Becker Morgan, which has designed other major projects in the resort. Project architect Bill Seig told the Mayor and Council on Monday the final design is consistent with other municipal projects in town.
“We worked with the existing floor plan and came up with some renderings that reflect the coastal aesthetics,” he said. “We think it fits in nicely with the existing neighborhood.”
Another issue to resolve was the timing of the project. At an estimated 425 days, Delmarva Veteran Builders had the longest time frame among the four accepted bidders. At 425 days, or well over year, construction of the project will carry over through next summer and beyond. Adkins explained whatever bid was chosen, that would be the case and his department would not be able to move into the new facility before next summer anyway.
“Statistically, we can’t leave the Whiteside facility in the middle of June in any case,” he said. “I can’t move this operation in the summer. At 425 days, that takes us into next fall with a ready date for the summer of 2020. That would be true no matter what bid was chosen.”
Mayor Rick Meehan asked if plans were being made to minimize the impact of the construction during the summer months next year.
“That is a residential area,” he said. “How can we work around that during the summer? Let’s be cognizant of that as we move forward with this project.”
The council ultimately voted unanimously to accept the bid from Delmarva Veteran Builders and move forward with the project.