OC Project Estimates Over Budget

OCEAN CITY — Continuing a recent trend, resort officials this week were somewhat sticker-shocked on the bids for a couple of significant public works projects.

Two weeks ago, the Mayor and Council reviewed a pair of bids for the first phase of the redevelopment of the downtown recreation complex along the bayside between 3rd Street and 4th Street. The redevelopment of the vast recreation complex will eventually be done in phases, with the budgeted amount for the initial phase at $2.2 million.

However, when the bids were opened for the first phase of the downtown recreation complex redevelopment project, one bid came in at around $3.8 million, while the second bid came in at nearly $5 million, or more than twice than the budgeted amount. As a result, the council voted, on advice from staff, to put that project on hiatus for now in order to better gage fluctuations in the construction market and rebid the project at a later date under normal economic conditions and supply chain issues improve.

During Tuesday’s work session, a similar situation evolved. The Mayor and Council had before them two bid openings on the agenda, one for improvements for the Montego Bay wastewater pumping station, and one for wastewater treatment plant generator switchgear improvements.

There were two bids submitted for the Montego Bay wastewater pumping station improvements, which was budgeted at $2.6 million. One of the bids opened on Tuesday came in at $3.4 million, while the second bid opened came in at $4.1 million.

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Faced with the grim new reality, the council somewhat reluctantly voted to remand the two bids for the Montego Bay project to the staff for a review and an eventual recommendation. Council President Matt James questioned if it would be more appropriate to put the project on hold and rebid it when some of the uncertainties about the current market were allayed, a course of action the council took with the downtown recreation complex bids two weeks ago.

“This is nearly double what the budgeted amount was,” he said. “Two weeks ago, we had a similar issue with the downtown recreation complex. Can we rebid this like we’re going to do with that project?”

Public Works Director Hal Adkins cautioned about dismissing the bids for the Montego Bay wastewater project, pointing out market conditions will not likely improve in the foreseeable future.

“If you look at what we’re experiencing with this and what we’re going to experience with the next bid, in my personal opinion, rebidding is going to get you nowhere,” he said. “With the projects we have slated and the ones coming up, you’re going to have to make some critical decisions.”

Adkins said there were a variety of factors driving the current market, which are not expected to improve. He said the Mayor and Council could be faced with tough decisions if the situation does not change.

“It’s just the way the market is right now,” he said. “You have price accelerations, supply chain issues. It’s just not a good situation. I just want to be candid. There is nothing to be gained by rebidding this specific project. At some point, we’re going to need to have a serious discussion about needs and wants.”

James said, like the downtown recreation complex project, the town will have to carefully review the budgets and potential bids for upcoming projects.

“A lot of projects are being put on hold in the hopes the price will come down,” he said. “That’s probably going to have to continue.”

As for the bid for the wastewater plant generator project, a similar situation unfolded. The town received only one bid for the project budgeted at $2.1 million and the lone bid came in at around $2.8 million. After a motion to recognize the lone bid, Adkins explained there was no advantage to rejecting it under current conditions.

“Typically, if we got one bid for a project, we would reject it and rebid it out,” he said. “In this climate, there is no reason to reject this bid. I would like to see the numbers.”

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.