By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(April 11, 2019) The Ocean Pines Board of Directors on Saturday approved spending $3.185 million for three major projects: expanding the police and administration building, rebuilding the country club, and building a new golf cart barn.
Discussions on each of the projects had dragged on for several years.
Reports of mold and general deterioration have plagued the country club since at least 2014, and first-floor renovations done in 2017 reportedly cost about $500,000, but achieved little.
A failing cart barn was also said not to protect the $319,000 investment in electric golf carts that were purchased in 2016.
Meanwhile, Police Chief David Massey has said for several years the association police quarters is both undersized and a safety hazard. Plans to expand the administration building to accommodate a larger police facility date back to at least 2017.
The directors on Saturday apparently solved all three problems with one vendor, Whayland Construction from Laurel, Delaware.
Director Frank Daly proposed three separate motions for the projects, to spend $1.115 million to renovate and expand the police and administration building, $1.6 million for a new golf and community center building, and $430,000 for a new golf cart-barn building.
Each bid came with a guaranteed maximum price, meaning the total price cannot exceed those numbers.
Daly said the police expansion “addresses deficiencies in the current facilities that create an unsafe working environment for the officers, victims and suspects by increasing working space and constructing that space to current law enforcement design and construction standards.”
On the country club, Daly said the “deteriorating single-use existing facility” would be replaced with a multi-use building designed to house both golf operations and community activities. He added the current building’s second story “is not suitable for any use.”
“Over the past year, architects, engineers, contractors and members of the community who are respected contractors have advised this board not to spend any additional money to renovate the existing facility and to focus on constructing a new building,” Daly said. “The proposed design ‘right sizes’ the space required to house golf operations, and provides additional space to be used by the community at large in a single-story space and energy-efficient facility.”
Similarly, he said the golf cart barn “has deteriorated to the point of replacement.”
Daly said Ocean Pines “reached out to a large number of contractors” for each of the three projects.
“In fact, if you want a number to hang your hat on, [it’s] 13,” Daly said, adding only one or two contractors responded in each case.
He said many were reluctant to bid on the projects because of “the current very strong construction market that we’re experiencing on the Eastern Shore.”
During the bidding and leveling process, Daly said one contractor emerged as the recommendation for all three projects.
He said there were several benefits to that. For instance, rather than having three project managers and three superintendents scattered across three different sites, according to Daly, “with one contractor you need basically one project manager and 1.2 superintendents.”
“That reduces … the supervision cost and the project management cost, which can be passed directly onto us,” he said.
There apparently also were other factors in proceeding in this manner.
Daly said it was important for board members and homeowners to “recognize and acknowledge the serious and unacceptable shortcomings in the planning and execution of our past two major construction projects,” namely the previous efforts to remodel the country club and building the new yacht club.
“We have discussed these shortcomings not only with ourselves as a board, but with the operation teams and with the contractors, and these projects will have specific contractual and oversight parameters to prevent these shortcomings from recurring,” he said.
He said two homeowners, Frank Brown and builder Marvin Steen, would work with interim General Manager John Viola on matters of “design quality and cost guidance.”
Daly said there were additional contractual provisions to allow the association to review and select subcontractors.
“That is a huge benefit to us, both in terms of quality and … in terms of cost.” he said.
He said board members and the budget and finance committee would also provide oversight of construction schedules and expenditures, for all three projects.
Director Slobodan Trendic said he would vote against all three, because the procurement process was “pretty disappointing and disturbing” and amounted to changing the rules halfway through.
“As much as I would like to see these projects go forward, there’s just so much … wrong with the way this procurement process has been handled,” he said. “I am just really worried that we will rush through something and later on it’s going to cost us a lot more money that is not shown in the numbers.”
“I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that a lot of this information came to us in the last 48 hours,” he added.
Jeff Knepper, appointed to the board earlier during the meeting, said if one contractor wanted to bid on all three projects, that opportunity would be extended to others.
He added, in his experience dealing with contractors, “Every once in a while a bidder will have a really brilliant idea … why would I want to throw that away on some technicality?”
Association Vice President Steve Tuttle noted the “guaranteed maximum price contract” language that applied to all three projects.
Regarding the procurement process, Tuttle said he’s learned that “Ocean Pines has a reputation of submitting RFPs, getting bids, and then not doing anything.”
“That’s part of the reason people are not bidding on our projects, because they’re sick and tired … of putting all the effort into preparing a bid, which is a very extensive process on these jobs, and then not hearing anything back from us,” he said. “We just can’t keep doing that.
“Unfortunately, we only did get one bid on this. I think it’s a very reputable company. We’ve gotten incredible references,” Tuttle continued. “I think we’re working with a really good contractor. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to move forward, and a great opportunity to improve the reputation of Ocean Pines.”
Director Esther Diller agreed.
“We keep forgetting the obvious: nobody wants to work here,” she said. “You can’t force people to give [Ocean Pines] an RFP.
“We need to make decisions. We need to get started,” she continued. “We have what we have, let’s move.”
Trendic abstained from the police station vote, and opposed awarding contracts to rebuild the country club and golf cart barn. The six other directors voted in favor of all three motions.