(Sept. 14, 2018) Councilmen John Gehrig and Wayne Hartman shared a heated exchange regarding the bidding process for the 64th Street water tower painting project on Tuesday.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the City Council a project bid form had been developed to solicit four price estimates.

“We asked to have the city manager read all the numbers into record and then we’ll take [bids] back for staff evaluation,” he said.

In addition to a base bid to paint the water tower blue, Adkins said other pricing options included the “Welcome and Thank You,” logo currently on the 64th Street structure, in addition to replicating the beach ball design on the First Street water tank or including a golf ball design to promote the Eagle’s Landing Golf Course.

Adkins also noted bid bonds were required from all contractors, with the project being funded through the fiscal 2019 Water Department budget.

Councilwoman Mary Knight opened three bid submissions from Manolis Painting Company of Baldwin, D & M Painting of Washington, Pennsylvania and Horizon Brothers Painting Corporation of Howell, Michigan.

The prices varied greatly, with Manolis Painting asking for $620,000 to paint the tower solely blue as compared to $181,000 from D & M Painting and $179,000 from Horizon Brothers.

The addition costs to include the welcome logo was $34,900 from Horizon, $32,600 from D & M and $6,500 from Manolis.

The beach ball and golf ball design quotes were $32,500 and $52,000 from Manolis, $89,800 and $158,000 from D & M, with Horizon asking for $62,900 and $73,900 respectively. 

After digesting the big differences in the estimates, which Adkins said were expected, Councilman Tony DeLuca confirmed that the original budget for the project was $250,000.

Deeming the last two options cost prohibitive, Hartman made a motion to accept only the bids to paint the tower blue as well as the welcome logo alternative.

“It looks like the golf ball may be stuck in the sand trap,” he said.

But Gehrig took exception with excluding options.

“We should at least honor the process and bring back all the numbers,” he said. “Let the staff do their job.”

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed that the decision should be based on all available options.

“There could be a change from what you see here, and we’ve got to let the process play out,” he said.

After Hartman’s motion died for lack of a second vote, DeLuca made a motion, seconded by Gehrig, to allow the staff to review all submissions.

Championing the most cost-effective selection, Hartman said asking staff to evaluate alternatives with exorbitant price tags was illogical.

“I hope no one up here is considering spending $60,000 to $158,000 to put a [golf ball] logo on a water tower,” he said. “Especially one that would serve an entity that’s owned by government and competing with private business.”

Gehrig replied that the topic of designs for the 64th Street water tower had been voted on during an earlier council meeting.

“No one’s saying that just because we allow the staff to do the job that we asked them to do … that we’re authorizing a $158,000 golf ball,” he said. “That’s just disingenuous.”

Hartman said the bidding process had run its course with fiscal data now available.

“Then why do we have a staff?” Gehrig interjected. “Why don’t we just make all of the decisions?”

Hartman chastized Gehrig for interrupting him.

“I think I have the floor right now,” he said. “When I’m done, if you want to put your light on to speak, you have that opportunity.”

Pointing out that the golf ball design estimates reached as high as $158,000, Hartman questioned Gehrig’s fiscal restraint.

“Would you pay that money out of your pocket?” he said. “Hopefully, the taxpayers in this town can understand this … [election day on] Nov. 6 is coming.”

Gehrig took exception to Hartman referencing the upcoming election.

“For you to make some hero statement like whoever disagrees with you is for spending $160,000, that’s just a joke Wayne,” he said. “We’ve had a disagreement on this issue from day one. Let the process go on and we’ll have a discussion.”

Adkins said staff review would be completed this week, with the topic revisited during the next council meeting on Sept. 17.

Prior to the brouhaha over water tower painting costs, the council also accepted five bids for the Second Street Public Works Complex design/build project, which is funded in the fiscal 2019 Capital Projects Account.

The bidders were: Delmarva Builders LLC of Salisbury, Encore Construction of Ocean City, Willow Construction of Easton, Harkins Contracting of Salisbury and Bancroft Construction of Wilmington, Delaware.

Adkins said Dean Dashiell, public works senior project manager, would assist in evaluating bid submissions.

“For those bidders in attendance, we envision that the scoring system will be completed by, most likely, this coming Monday afternoon,” he said.

Adkins said a meeting with the Ocean City Development Corporation design committee is set for the following day on Sept. 18.

“The builder and their design firm of choice, because it’s basically a partnership, will be involved in the presentation to the OCDC design committee,” he said. “We will then come back to the mayor and City Council, with the support of OCDC, on Oct. 1.”

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