Officials Expedite Approval Process For Boardwalk Lumber Bids

Officials Expedite Approval Process For Boardwalk Lumber Bids
The Boardwalk is pictured in a file photo by Chris Parypa.

OCEAN CITY – With some urgency, bids for lumber for the second phase of the two-phase Boardwalk re-decking project were opened with the type of lumber likely being the tipping point in the final decision.

The complete re-decking of the Boardwalk has been on the town’s radar for a number of years, but with the first phase completed last spring and the second phase expected to get underway later this fall, it is now coming to fruition. After a couple of pandemic-related setbacks involving the availability of lumber and materials, the first phase began last October and covered the north end of the Boardwalk from its terminus at 27th Street to 15th Street.

That project was completed this spring in advance of the summer season. The second phase, which will run from 15th Street south to the fishing pier, is expected to begin this fall and be completed in advance of next summer’s season. During Monday’s meeting, bids were opened for the lumber of the second phase of the Boardwalk re-decking project, and despite inflation and supply chain issues, the Mayor and Council were not sticker-shocked by the estimates. The second phase is budgeted at a little over $500,000, and the first set of bids for the two alternate grades came in at the $465,000 and $450,000 range.

The second set of bids came in higher at $606,000 for the number-one dense grade of lumber, and $727,000 for the number-one prime grade of lumber. There was a third bid opened, but it proposed to use an expensive tropical hardwood alternative that would cost over $2 million and that bid got little traction.

City Manager Terry McGean explained there was sensitive timing issue with the awarding of one of the bids because of the volatility in the lumber industry currently. Typically, bids for major projects are opened and then remanded to staff for review and a recommendation. A couple of weeks later, the staff recommendation comes back to the Mayor and Council, who make the final decision.

“We have a little bit of an issue here,” he said. “The next council meeting is not until August 30. Because of the market, it’s somewhat difficult to ask these guys to hold these bids for that long of time.”

That process will not change, but McGean suggested expediting it in order to avoid having to go back to rebidding if the prices in the lumber change greatly before the next meeting.

“What I’d like to do is have staff review these and I can make a recommendation to you all by Friday and you can get back to me by the following Monday. If not, we would probably have to rebid the project on that basis.”

Councilman Mark Paddack asked about the differences between the number-one dense grade and the number-one prime grade for the proposed Boardwalk re-decking lumber. City Engineer Paul Mauser explained number-one dense is more durable, but perhaps less aesthetically pleasing.

“Number-one dense is a stronger, more structured grade of lumber,” he said. “The only downside in the lumber is it does have a wane in the board. It’s an aesthetic concern as well as a tripping concern it has too much wane.”

Mauser explained the differences with number-one prime and current issues with its availability.

“Number-one prime is much more aesthetically pleasing lumber, but it’s not as strong as number-one dense,” he said. “However, number-one dense currently has supply chain issues. It’s barely even available. We did get one price of well over $300,000 over budget.”

Paddack asked about a section of the Boardwalk re-decked with a purple-hued alternative lumber that was used as a test case in just a single block. McGean explained there was also a symbolic reason at the time for using the purple-hued hardwood in that section near 4th Street.

“That section of 4th Street last time was called purple heart,” he said. “That’s the stuff that’s going to be over $2 million to $3 million, probably more than that because we only did that one block with it. It was kind of a special thing because when we were doing re-decking that year, the Ravens were going to the Super Bowl.”

McGean said the availability of the two favored grades of lumber could make the ultimate recommendation easier. In addition, he said when the first phase began last fall and was completed in the spring, number-one prime was used, so there is some compatibility to consider.

“I would say that last year when we opened bids for phase one, we didn’t get any bids for number-one dense, so we used number-one prime,” he said. “As a result, half of the Boardwalk is already number-one prime.”

The entire cost of the two-phase Boardwalk re-decking project is around $2.2 million, which is spread over two years in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan. There are also some pier franchise lease funds totaling $100,000 in each year dedicated to the Boardwalk re-decking project that are built into the total budget for the second phase of the project set at $500,000.

Paddack made a motion to remand the lumber bids to staff with McGean making a recommendation by Friday. The Mayor and Council will then review the recommendation and make a decision by Monday.

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.