DDA Awards Downtown Contracts

July 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — New signs for downtown and facelifts for Commerce Avenue and Oakes Street are in the works.

And this time neither contract will cost the Downtown Development Authority more money under the Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) program, which is getting a trial run this year as a guideline for awarding city contracts based on whether minority- and women-owned firms are included in the work.

The Poblocki & Sons Sign Co. of West Allis, Wis., won the bid for the wayfinding sign system that will direct visitors to numerous downtown attractions.

Poblocki, located in a Milwaukee suburb, had the lowest of the four bids submitted for the project at $649,513. Under the EBO program, the company earned three discount points that lowered its bid by 3 percent to $630,027, or $136,000 less than the next lowest bid.

Poblocki was the only bidder to earn a reduction, as the company has a minority-owned firm as a subcontractor on the project. The firm has built, designed and installed signs for Target, the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park and County Stadium, the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and Affinity Health System.

The project involves installing 193 signs in four different sizes that will be color-coded to represent the four districts of downtown. Total expenditures for the effort can’t exceed $827,000, a figure that includes a 12 percent contingency and $58,300 for engineering services done by Tetra Tech MPS.

The DDA is footing $722,200 of that total cost, while Parking Services is picking up $104,800. The DDA also has set aside $100,000 for yearly maintenance of the system. It took DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler about two years to put the wayfinding system together.

“It was much more complex than what we anticipated,” said Fowler, who added that the city engineering department managed the project.

The signs have to be in place by March.

Board members also awarded the reconstruction of Commerce and Oakes to Diversco Construction, which had the lowest of four bids with and without the EBO discount. The largest EBO discount, however, went to Nagel Construction.

Nagel earned a 5 percent discount, the largest allowed under the EBO program, but the firm had the highest of the four bids and its discount wasn’t nearly enough to get under the Diversco bid. Diversco captured the contract with a discounted bid of $1.76 million, while Nagel’s reduced bid was $1.91 million.

The work will rebuild Commerce Avenue from Fulton to Cherry, and a section of Oakes Street from the Commerce Avenue alley to Commerce Avenue. The DDA, along with the city’s street, water and sewer departments, will pay for the work. The DDA’s share is $960,000, while the city departments are on the line for $1.74 million.

The DDA will pay Poblocki and Diversco their original bids for the projects, rather than the discounted ones. The EBO discount doesn’t alter a project’s cost. It serves as a method for awarding contracts and offers an incentive for firms to involve minorities and women in their bids because the discount points can sometimes award a project to a company that isn’t the lowest bidder.

That happened in May to Dykema Excavators, which submitted the lowest bid to build the DASH 9 parking lot at Seward Avenue and Lake Michigan Drive NW. But when the discount was applied to the bids, Diversco won the contract because it earned a higher discount that reduced its bid below the one made by Dykema.

The result was that the DDA paid $12,154 more for the work than the Dykema bid would have cost the board.

EBO is replacing the city’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise program for this calendar year. Under EBO, firms can earn up to a 5 percent discount on a bid made with the city across five categories that measure diversity in the local construction industry. A decision on whether to continue the program is expected to come early next year.    

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