In a previous Construction Corner post we discussed the procurement of an Architect for a school project. In this post, we will discuss the procurement of a General Contractor.
At the outset, it is essential to the procurement process that your solicitation document includes comprehensive, relevant, well organized and statutorily compliant content. This is particularly important for state assisted public school projects because CGS §10-287(b)(1) requires that (i) bids for the project be solicited pursuant to a public invitation to bid; (ii) the invitation to bid be advertised in a newspaper having circulation in the town in which construction is to take place; and (iii) the contracts for these projects to be awarded to the “lowest responsible qualified bidder”.
Additionally, if the contract for a state assisted project is estimated to exceed $500,000, CGS §4b-91(a)(4) also requires that (i) the invitation to bid be published on the State Contracting Portal; (ii) the contract awardee to be prequalified by the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services under CGS §4a-100; and (iii) the invitation to bid identity the required prequalification classification.
Bid disputes will be addressed in detail in a later Construction Corner Post. Suffice it to say for our purposes here that compliance with the requirements of applicable law in the procurement process is the first step towards the avoidance of a potentially timely and costly bid dispute.
The following guidelines would apply to public schools projects as well as to private school projects for which bids are to be solicited.
Invitation to Bid: The elements of a solicitation for a general contractor generally include the Invitation to Bid and the Request for Proposals. The Invitation to Bid is the document that is published and should provide the following information:
- Name of the “owner”;
- Identification of the project (e.g. Reroofing of Hartford High School);
- Instructions on obtaining access to the Request for Proposals and attendant documents;
- Deadline for submission of proposals;
- Mode for submission of proposals (e.g. mail) and location for delivery;
- Specific submission requirements (e.g. sealed marked envelope);
- Prequalification requirements and required classification, if applicable;
- Date and time for mandatory pre-bid meeting and walk through if applicable;
- Date and location for bid opening; and
- A statement that the “owner” reserves the right to waive errors in any proposals, to reject any and/or all submissions, and to accept other than the proposer submitting the lowest price, all as determined by the “owner” to be in the best interest of the “owner”.
Request for Proposals (RFP): The Request for Proposals generally includes the Instructions to Bidders, the Project Manual and the Bid Form.
The Instructions to Bidders describes the qualifications for bidders, the form and content for bid proposals, and the criteria to be utilized by the owner as the basis for evaluation and selection of the contract awardee. The Instructions to Bidders also generally includes a description of the scope of the work, particular scheduling milestone dates, bonding and insurance requirements, and, for public projects, any SBE/MBE Set-Aside requirements. The purpose of all of the foregoing is to provide bidders with all of the information they need to price the work and prepare their proposals. The clarity of the Instructions will have a direct impact on the level of organization, completeness and comparability of proposals.
The Project Manual includes the contract documents (with the exception of the drawings) specifically organized into bid requirements, the form of construction contract, general conditions for construction and technical specifications. To ensure that the standard forms of contract and general conditions are appropriately modified to reflect the project requirements and to protect the interests of the owner, it is prudent for an owner to have the form of contract and general conditions documents prepared (or at least reviewed) by owner’s legal counsel. Making modifications of these documents prior to inclusion in the Project Manual will simplify contract negotiations with the successful bidder. From the contractor’s perspective, the contractor will know at the time of the bid what to expect in terms of the contract documents.
The Bid Form, which is filled out by the bidder and submitted with its proposal, should call for the pricing structure desired by the owner. For example, an owner seeking lump sum bids, lump sum pricing for certain alternates, allowances for certain unspecified items and unit prices for certain unspecified quantities must request that pricing for all of these items be provided on the Bid Form so that the bid forms from all of the bidders will be uniform in content and comparable.
Evaluation of Submissions: Once the bids have been received (and publicly opened, if applicable), the owner should evaluate the bids based on the criteria set forth in the RFP. In the case of state assisted public school projects, the owner must identify the bidder that constitutes the “lowest responsible qualified bidder”. If the low bidder is deemed not to be both responsible and qualified, their bid must be rejected and the owner will turn to the second to lowest bidder. The importance of a uniform and consistent evaluation process, particularly for state assisted public school projects, will be discussed in more detail in a future Construction Corner Post regarding bid disputes.