Construction on the northern boardwalk extension project in Carolina Beach can finally begin after town council awarded the contract for the project Tuesday morning.
Council members voted unanimously to give the contract to Paragon Building Corporation of Wilmington, as recommended by Brian Cox of Engineering Services, the company hired to review and assess all the bids the town received.
The awarding of the contract was delayed after the town received only one offer during the original bidding window of Jan. 10 to Feb. 4.
“We could not accept that bid by state statute,” said Town Manager Michael Cramer.
After the time period was extended two weeks, a total of three bids were received. Paragon was the lowest, with a price tag of $727,211, followed closely by Civil Works Contracting at $728,882. The third bid, by Intercoastal Marine, was priced at $838,575.
“Because the costs were so close between the one and two bidders [Paragon and Civil Works], we sent them additional information and questions to clarify certain positions, and they came back as reasonable results,” Cramer said of the recommendation process. “We didn’t have anything that says we should disqualify one bidder or another, so we have no reason to believe that Paragon Builders cannot perform the construction constraints.”
Mayor Dan Wilcox questioned why the previous bid of $672,000 for the original boardwalk was “substantially lower” than the extension bid even though the new part will be narrower than the existing one.
According to Cramer, two major things contributed to the rise in cost. One was the addition of handrails, which were not included in the original bid but were added during construction. Cramer estimates that the change order cost $12,000 to $15,000, and the rails will be mirrored in the new portion for consistency.
The second was the connection to the Hampton Inn that is currently under construction just north of Harper Avenue, where the existing wooden walkway ends.
“We knew that the Hampton Inn was coming, we just didn’t know how they would connect to us, whether they would need a separate connection or whether they would use the existing connection that was there at Harper [Avenue],” said Cramer. “Since that time, we’ve determined that their interest is to have a separate connection.”
Cramer said the town expects the Hampton Inn, which will likely open in September, to participate in the project. He said he anticipates $30,000 to $40,000 in contributions to the connection.
Now that the contract has been awarded, the town will give the company and contractors 100 days from the official notice to proceed to complete the extension. The town is hoping to meet with Paragon in the next two weeks so work can get started as soon as possible. If the work starts next month, the 100-day window will end in June, after the tourist season starts. That poses some concern for officials, because unlike the original portion, the extension passes in front of mostly residential areas rather than commercial businesses.
“My concern is the noise,” said Mayor Pro Tem LeAnn Pierce. “If you pay $150 a night, you don’t want to wake up to hammer and nails.”
“Most of the heavy construction will be done before the season gets here,” said Cramer, saying they would talk with the contractor about working extended hours during the weekdays and on Saturdays from March to May.
The boardwalk is funded through a combination of town-matched grants from New Hanover County, Water Resources and the Coastal Area Management Act. The total budget for the entire project, including the existing wooden walkway and the extension, is $2,168,035.