South Coastal Library project put on hold

Construction on the expansion of the South Coastal Library in Bethany will have to be placed on the back burner for at least a few weeks, as recent bids on the project will be rejected due to non-compliance with proper bidding procedures.
The project, originally estimated to cost $5 million, is planned to more than double the library’s space along Kent Avenue, to 21,500 square feet.

Three bidders responded with competitive bid amounts, all coming in lower than the original projected cost. The lowest came from Wilmington-based Nason Construction, at $4.64 million. Gillis Gilkerson Inc. of Salisbury, Md., placed the second-lowest bid, with $4.69 million, with the third coming from Bancroft Construction of Wilmington, at just under $4.75 million.

A bid protest, however, came from Gillis Gilkerson, whose representatives noted that when bids were opened, lowest bidder, Nason Construction Inc., had not included their list of subcontractors. Nason Construction did turn in their list within two hours of the bid opening.

But, as state law is written, strong emphasis is placed on public building projects and the requirement of immediate inclusion for the subcontractors list.

“At the time, it was my feeling that it was an informality that we could waive, and we were accepting of the situation,” said Sussex County Engineer Michael Izzo.

Further discrepancy arose with further review of the documentation that the county distributes to construction bidders. On Page 1, bidders are informed to include their list of subcontractors, although on Page 2 contradictory directions are given, stating, “The apparent low-bidder shall supply the names addresses and state of Delaware business licenses of major materials suppliers and subcontractors within 72 hours of the bid.”

“There is a concern that if we award one or the other, we will have a lawsuit to deal with,” said Izzo, who admitted this was a detail that the county had overlooked.

In a vote at Tuesday’s Sussex County Council meeting, the council made a motion, as recommended by Assistant County Solicitor Vince Robertson, to reject the bids and allow the project to be re-bid immediately. Bidding was estimated to restart as early as 22 days.

“I don’t like it,” said Council President Dale Dukes of the delay. “But we’d be tied up in court a lot longer than 22 days, I’m sure.” Dukes cast the final vote in the unanimous decision to re-bid the project.