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One bid remains in city project

In less than a year, the city of Lake Oswego will begin the $100 million sewer interceptor project - the most expensive capital improvement project in city history.

That means the pressure is on to choose the right contractor for the job.

But the competition among contractors recently dried up and the city is left with one contractor, which must still prove it is capable of orchestrating an intricate project on a tight timeline.

Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont., may be the city's best and only choice to do the project.

On Nov. 1, Barnard Construction submitted a proposal for the job, which involves installing a submerged pipe in Oswego Lake. The pipe will use gravity to move sewage to the treatment plant near the Willamette River.

Ideally, the city would have received several or more proposals from qualified bidders. But two contractors - Kiewit General and J.F. White Contracting - pulled out of the competition.

Kiewit, J.F. White and Barnard were the three contractors who emerged this fall as qualified to handle the scope of the $100 million interceptor project.

Altogether, five firms responded to the city's request for qualifications, which was advertised in the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland and Seattle and on the Internet, through Bidocean.com.

Two of the five were eliminated because they had not worked on projects of $45 million and higher.

The three firms were then given by the city a request for proposals document. At that stage, Kiewit and J.F. White dropped out, citing load schedule and other factors.

That left the city with a decision: re-bid the project and risk delays and the possibility that no new firms would respond. There was also the potential that Barnard would not re-bid. Or, proceed with reviewing Barnard as the sole bidder.

The city council, on the advice of City Engineer Joel Komarek, elected to forego issuing another request for proposals.

Komarek said it is lucky that, of the three, Barnard is most qualified for the interceptor project.

'Barnard has shown the most experience related to the type of work they will be doing: marine construction, using plastic pipe, working from barges and working in a constrained environment,' he said.

The winning contractor also has to show it can work using an alternative delivery method called construction manager/general contractor, or CM/GC. The city has used the method successfully before, on projects such the South Shore Bridge replacement and construction of the A Avenue demonstration project between State and Fourth streets.

Many projects are done using the traditional method of design, bid and build. The CM/GC method is different, in that the contractor is hired early in the design process and works with a design team. Once the contractor and designers reach 75 percent completion of the design, the client and contractor negotiate on a construction cost.

The city already has hired Brown and Caldwell, an environmental engineer, to lead the design team. Brown and Caldwell will hire geotechnical and structural contractors.

In the CM/GC method, Brown and Caldwell will 'act as an advocate and protect the interests' of the city, Komarek said.

'Brown and Caldwell will be acting as a second filter on the costs developed by the contractor,' said Komarek.

In the design process, he said the city can work with the CM/GC and the design team, as they select and bid on materials - a process that could save money.

Komarek said the city is fortunate that Barnard is the one team that did not withdraw. But he said the city's evaluation team will, nevertheless, not adjust its standards because there is only one contractor.

'I expect (Barnard ) will submit a top-notch proposal,' he said.

He added that, using the CM/GC method, the project will come in under the $100 million estimate.

'I can say with some confidence that we are going to deliver this project for less than the engineers' estimates,' he said.

The city's proposal evaluation team will determine if Barnard's proposal provides the 'best value' to the city, Komarek said.

Then the city will negotiate a contract for pre-construction phase services.

In six to seven months, the city and Barnard would enter into negotiations for the construction phase.

If Barnard is recommended, the city council could approve the selection in December.