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COUNTY CAN­CELS BID SOLICITATION FOR WAIMEA HIGH­WAY PROJECT AMID QUES­TIONS OF FAIR­NESS

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY MAX DIBLE mdi­ble@west­hawai­ito­day.com

KAILUA-KONA — A project to widen 2.8 miles of Ma­mala­hoa High­way in Waimea hit a road­block Thurs­day when Hawaii County can­celed the bid solicitation af­ter one of the bid­ders protested the pro­cure­ment process, claim­ing it was un­fair.

Hawaii County Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works spokesman Barett Otani said the county will re-bid the project, which will likely push back the project sched­ule at least a cou­ple of weeks. The county has yet to set a spe­cific bid date.

Once the county awards a bid, the con­trac­tor will have 180 days to be­gin con­struc­tion. Otani told WHT in late Oc­to­ber when the bids were opened that work might be­gin as early as Fe­bru­ary. That did not fac­tor in the added time now re­quired be­cause one bid­der has filed a protest.

Fed­eral monies will fund most of the high­way widen­ing, and fed­eral dol­lars come with ex­pi­ra­tion dates, but Otani said the hic­cup in the time­line won’t threaten the avail­abil­ity of those funds.

“The money is al­ready set aside, but we want to award and get work go­ing on this project,” he said. “So it’ll hap­pen soon. Real soon.”

The work on Ma­mala­hoa High­way — which will in­clude widen­ing at 18 ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions, adding left-turn pock­ets and mak­ing drainage im­prove­ments be­tween Mana Road and Mud Lane — has been in the county pipe­line for years.

The county’s ini­tial cost pro­jec­tions slated the widen­ing at around $25 mil­lion. Kiewit

In­fra­struc­ture West Co., a com­pany based in Omaha, Ne­braska, with of­fices in Honolulu, came in with the low­est bid of $19.11 mil­lion. The high­est bid was $24.10 mil­lion.

Fed­eral monies will fund 80 per­cent of the project, mean­ing Kiewit’s now scrapped bid would have saved the county over $1 mil­lion based on its pro­jec­tions.

Only one of six bid­ders filed a com­plaint, Otani said. That com­pany’s is­sue with the pro­cure­ment process was that the county used a three-tier sys­tem to struc­ture the bid, which Otani ex­plained is a break from the norm.

“We want to get the best deal for the com­mu­nity and get the most bang for the buck, which is why we put out this pack­age in a tier form,” he ex­plained.

The county seg­mented the process to in­clude a base bid and then bids on dif­fer­ent por­tions of the de­sired work to pro­tect against a sce­nario in which ask­ing for one all-en­com­pass­ing bid re­sulted in all six con­trac­tors out­pric­ing the project bud­get.

Otani said it was a mis­take on the county’s part, and thus the county is mov­ing to rec­tify it to en­sure fair­ness. Not do­ing so could leave the county ex­posed to a law­suit.

“It shouldn’t have been put out that way, it should have been put out as just a pack­age bid,” he said. “It was de­ter­mined by the chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer that the can­cel­la­tion would be in the pub­lic in­ter­est and (re­bid­ding) the pack­age in its full form would be fair to all.”

Otani added Kiewit has a le­git­i­mate gripe, as it must re­bid against com­peti­tors who now know the amount of the com­pany’s ini­tial bid.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Hawaii Ad­min­is­tra­tive Rules, the county re­serves the right to can­cel a solicitation for “am­bigu­ous or oth­er­wise in­ad­e­quate spec­i­fi­ca­tions” or if the chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer deems “a can­cel­la­tion is in the pub­lic in­ter­est.”

The county can is­sue a can­cel­la­tion fol­low­ing a bid open­ing as long as it does so be­fore the bid is awarded. A sys­tem of checks and bal­ances al­lows for a cer­tain pe­riod of time be­tween an open­ing and an award­ing for chal­lenges such as the one made in­volv­ing the Ma­mala­hoa High­way widen­ing project.

Kiewit did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the bid can­cel­la­tion.

LAURA RUMINSKI, FILE/

Traf­fic moves on Ma­mala­hoa High­way be­tween Mud Lane and Mana Road in Waimea.

LAURA RUMINSKI, FILE/

The project to widen Ma­mala­hoa High­way be­tween Mana Road and Mud Lane hit a road­block Thurs­day when Hawaii County can­celed the bid solicitation for the project.

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