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Contractors bypass New Berlin road project

By Sean Ryan

New Berlin officials wonder why only one bidder pursued a $1.7 million road project at a time when paving company reps say they are hungry for work.

The bid the city received from Payne & Dolan Inc., Waukesha, is higher than the amount budgeted for the project, so the city this week will rebid the project with the goal of getting more competition and lower prices, said New Berlin Mayor Jack Chiovatero. City policy requires either a rebid or Common Council approval if only one contractor submits a bid and that bid exceeds estimates.

“Right now, we’re a little worried,” he said, “because there’s so much work going on out there that the days of low bids because of lack of work might be over.”

City Engineer J.P. Walker said two plan holders for the project indicated they could not get subcontractor quotes before the May 6 deadline. Another plan holder could not accept any more work this summer, he said.

“With a bid opening on May 6, we were looking at work starting in June,” Walker said. “I don’t know how much work the subs have lined up for June.”

(Map courtesy of Google Maps)

(Map courtesy of Google Maps)

The city will rebid the project May 20. The contract includes new paving and utilities along Calhoun Road between West Fullerton Avenue and Cleveland Avenue.

The city does not need to worry about pavers losing their hunger for work, said John Loosen, vice president of Capitol Pavers Inc., New Berlin. The bidding prices are more likely to decline than increase as bidders become more desperate to land projects before road building season ends, he said.

“We bid higher in spring because nobody has work, and we’re trying to get better prices,” he said. “You get into the June, July area, and the bidding is almost over.”

Capitol, which for the past two years has won New Berlin’s citywide street resurfacing contract, did not bid on the Calhoun job because the company only could self-perform about half of the project, Loosen said. He said he did not want to expend his limited bonding capacity on a job for which so much work is subcontracted out.

Walker said the city is opening bids June 3 for the rebid, and has pushed the construction start date back one month to July. The original bid opening came on the heels of four months of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation holding bid lettings twice a month, rather than the traditional monthly letting, to bid stimulus contracts.

Walker said the month delay may generate more interest in the project, but he did not want to make predictions.

“Who knows?” he said.

Tom Amon, president of B.R. Amon & Sons Inc., Elkhorn, said there has been enough public roadwork to fuel competition, but not enough to overload contractors. He said he is concerned about whether any work will be available later this year.

The private work that has helped builders stay busy does not exist now, he said.

“The contractors don’t control the market,” Amon said. “The market controls the market. So we just have to see what it does to everyone.”

Chiovatero said it is heartening to hear the industry is still interested in bidding, and the city has a chance of getting a better price for Calhoun Road.

“I hope that continues,” he said.

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