Bids soon to be opened on long-awaited project


After more than 15 years of efforts, Rural Improvement District No. 1, which will provide sewer lines along Valley Drive East over to Gumflat Road and Cheyenne and Kootenai avenues, is almost a reality.

On Thursday, the Custer County Commissioners will formally open bids for the long-anticipated project. 

About 100 low-income residences in the area have limited or no sewer connections. Commissioners have tried to get the project done for many years but had problems with finding the finances and easement issues. 

Andy Marum of Dowl HKM Engineering, met with the commissioners Tuesday morning to explain the process of opening the bids, which is the most complex bid process that these commissioners have used.

All bids are submitted through the Clerk and Recorder’s office so they can be time-stamped.  The bids will be opened promptly at 2 p.m. on Thursday.  Bids will be accepted up to the deadline.  Marum explained that if a bid arrives late by a minute or two, the commissioners have the option of opening the bid but it must be noted that it arrived late.

The bidding contractors or their representatives will be in attendance when the bids are opened.  Marum is expecting approximately  six contractors, with two or three persons from each firm, attending.  

Before the bids are opened, a spreadsheet will be given to each contractor, with the same form written on a display board for everyone to see.   Marum explained that who opens the bid is not important, he could open them if the commission wished, but they must be done carefully. In the past, Chairman Keith Holmlund has opened bids for other projects and will do so again.

When the first bid is opened, the relevant portions are read aloud and noted on the display board.  The information will include who the contractor is, where they are from, include their bonding information, an acknowledgement that they received the two addendums that were added to the original bid request and finally, the bids for the three scheduled projects and the overall total.

This is done to assure all the bidders that everyone had the same information and no favoritism was shown to any contractor.  It also insures that if a bidder did not receive all the pertinent information, that is clearly understood. This reduces legal challenges to the bid process, which can delay projects.

As each bid is completed, it is returned to its envelope and another bid is opened.  The order they are opened has no effect on the final out come.

There are three ‘schedules’ or parts to the overall project.  Schedule A, which is the lift station and major sewer lines that will need to be installed on Gumflat Road, is the primary project.  If bids are higher than anticipated, Schedule A will be completed but Schedule B, which is the northern portion of the sewer lines and Schedule C, which is the southern portion of the project, may be delayed or modified.

After the bids are opened, Marum will take the bids and perform a detailed analysis at his office, making sure that no mistakes were made by the submitting contractors.  He will then check qualifications of the apparent low bidders.  After he has checked the numbers and the references, Marum will submit a letter of recommendation to the commissioners for their final approval.

On Tuesday, January 27, the vote on accepting the bid will be on the commissioners agenda.

Vicki Hamilton noted that now is ‘the perfect time for a bid’ because contractors are lining up their summer projects.

The various granting agencies, which are providing a major portion of the funding for the project, will be kept informed at every step.

Mike Coryell and Julie Korkow of the Southeastern Montana Economic Development Office, who have written several of the grants for the project, and Commissioner Kevin Krauz also attended Tuesday meetings and will be there Thursday to enjoy the next step on their long journey.