The downtown road, curb, and sidewalk project for Devils Lake, got a little setback in October. The ND Department of Transportation rejected the sole bid for the project from Strata Corp., because the bid was $1.9 million over the engineer’s estimate, and NDDOT determined that Strata had not made “good faith effort” trying to find a subcontractor who qualified for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.

The downtown road, curb, and sidewalk project for Devils Lake, got a little setback in October.  The ND Department of Transportation rejected the sole bid for the project from Strata Corp., because the bid was $1.9 million over the engineer’s estimate, and NDDOT determined that Strata had not made “good faith effort” trying to find a subcontractor who qualified for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.  The DBE requires contractors ensure that a minimum of ten percent of their subcontractors are minority- or women-owned.

“It’s not really that much of delay,” said Mike Grafsgaard.  “The project is scheduled a February bid opening, and that still allows us to do the work in 2019.  In fact, the new plans were just submitted to the NDDOT last Friday.”  Grafsgaard is the city engineer for Devils Lake.

Of more curiosity for Grafsgaard was the single bid and the excessive amount beyond the estimate.  “Usually, you have comparisons with other bids,” he said.  “Was the engineer’s estimate too low?  Was something missed?  But not in this case because there’s only one bid.  I do know that some of that overage was for public relations.  A project like this is very disruptive, as everyone in town knows.  A PR team can keep people and neighborhoods informed and answer questions.  When people get angry it’s usually because the don’t know what’s going on.”

Grafsgaard said that prior to the reletting of the project for bids, he and his team were going to try and meet with some of the subcontractors and see what adjustments were needed.  Then they’d review the original estimate and try to determine why the nearly $2 million difference.

Anytime federal dollars are used on a road project, and they will be for Devils Lake, a ten percent quota of DBE businesses is required.  The initial recommendation was to award Strata the bid, but further examination by the DBE committee of NDDOT’s Civil Rights Program determined that Strata did not make a “good faith effort.”  

“The committee has their criteria,” said Phil Merdoff, of NDDOT’s Civil Rights Division.  “The committee looks at the list of subcontractors, but also at other factors.  In this case, they decided that Strata didn’t make a good faith effort.”