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Best contractor for project may not have lowest bid

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Local general contractors and design firms each seem to have their own method for letting a project for bid, but all require much of the same information and utilize similar schedules and time lines.

According to Jack Hood, president of Hood-Rich Inc., a local architectural and engineering firm, the process his company uses is to:

1. Advertise in the Dodge Reports and call various contractors to see if they're interested in the project.

2. Print plans and specifications to be disseminated to contractors who request them.

3. Allow the contractors to check out the plans and specifications. "They give us a deposit so we know (the plans will) be returned," Hood said. "When they bring them back, their check is returned."

4. Set a bid date, usually three to four weeks distant.

5. Have a bid opening, usually with the client and general contractor.

6. Tabulate bids, and advise the owner as to the lowest bid and best contractor.

7. Prepare contracts.

Hood said this method "just seemed to evolve out of necessity. For us, it seems to be the best way of doing things."

Melissa Higbie, associate project architect at Esterly, Schneider & Associates, said it's important to first determine whether a bid is by invitation only or open to the public.

"If it's a private bid, you'll be calling in different general and subcontractors than you would if it's a public bid. That's usually the difference between private and public," she said.

"When it's a public bid, you have generally pre-selected three to five different general and subcontractors," she said. "Plumbers and hardware suppliers are just a few of the people who fit into the subcontractor category. They call into our office and request the plans and specifications. We distribute them through this office, keeping a record of who has obtained them. Then, if there's an addendum to the specs, we know who has them and who to contact with this new information."

Higbie said the bidding period usually runs for three to four weeks, and that during this time the bid date is set. "Then the contractors come in on a set date and time: the bid date," she said. "Then the bids are opened up, and we review them with the owner and the general contractor. We accept the lowest bids, except if the low bidder has made a mistake and decides not to bid or backs out of his bid. Then the contracts are written up and the Notice to Proceed is issued. After that, construction begins."

She said this process bidding and negotiating is done on every project.

For Shane Dennis, the project estimator at MoDoCo Inc., the first step is to get the drawings and specifications.

"Then we determine who the subcontractors will be after making up a list" he said. "The list will contain the different kinds of people we'll need, like rough carpenters, finish carpenters, drywallers, and so on. Then, I give the list to a secretary who faxes out solicitations for bids for people that do the kind of work we're looking for on this project. After the solicitations go out, I follow up with some phone calls to specific subcontractors. The secretary also stays on top of information, seeing if any of them have questions about the project and/or if they will bid."

Dennis said this method seems to work for them. "I only spend about an hour on the bidding process. The secretary does about 80 percent of the work to my 20 percent."

At Morelock-Ross Builders, the company only works with subcontractors that are qualified, said Wayne Morelock, company president. "To be qualified, they have to have a track record with us, be capable of the scope of the project and be financially sound," he said.

After selecting two or three they feel are qualified, Morelock-Ross gives them a plan and specifications and then asks the subcontractors for a price and a time line.

"The most complicated issue is qualifying," Morelock said. "We also want to know if their workload will allow them to do the work in a timely fashion. The lowest price is not the determining factor for us[[In-content Ad]]

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