By Tim O’Meilia
The choice for the Gulf Stream Town Commission was time or money.
Award the long-awaited contract to put overhead utilities underground now or wait two months to make the award and perhaps save $165,000.
They chose time.
By a 4-0 vote at their Aug. 13 meeting, commissioners awarded a $1.75 million contract to Hypower Inc. of Fort Lauderdale to begin work in September on the first phase of the $5.4 million project.
Already 16 months behind schedule, commissioners said they didn’t want to further delay the project that residents voted to pay for in November 2011.
“People coming down (from summer homes) will say where the heck’s the digging,” said Commissioner Bob Ganger.
Although four contractors bid on the project, two were rejected because they did not include a crucial work schedule. One of them, Mastec North America, was the low bidder by $165,000.
Hypower’s bid is less than town consulting engineer Danny Brannon’s estimate.
Brannon recommended re-bidding the work anyway because he said that having only two responsive bidders was a solid reason for a do-over and a good chance for a lower price.
“I’m always reluctant to award something to someone who can’t follow the rules,” Ganger said.
Town Manager William Thrasher recommended accepting the low bid since Hypower was also more highly ranked on other criteria. Brannon said all four contractors were well-qualified.
“There’s something to be said for those who come in with a complete bid,” said Commissioner Donna White.
“Is $100,000 worth two months?” asked Mayor Joan Orthwein.
Brannon expects landscape removal to begin immediately in the Phase 1 area, south of Golfview Road. Construction is set to begin in late September. If the work remains on schedule, the first phase would be completed by late September 2014. The work includes $228,000 for installation of 22 street lights that were not included in the original project.
Phase 2 is scheduled to begin construction in May 2014 and be completed by August 2014.
Even with the power, telephone and cable lines underground, the overhead lines and poles might not be removed by Florida Power & Light until months after the project is complete, Brannon said.
In other business, commissioners:
• Agreed unanimously to appoint a five-member ad hoc committee to recommend changes in the town’s design guidelines, including roofs, colors and home styles.
“Times have changed. There’s a lot of new construction in town. We’re interested in the town keeping its character but also being more flexible,” said Orthwein, who has pushed for changes.
The commission is hoping for volunteers and expects to consider applicants at the Sept. 9 meeting.
• Briefly discussed the proposed budget, which would give 2.5 percent raises to town employees. Ganger noted that the pay raise is higher than this year’s Consumer Price Index uptick of 0.6 percent. Thrasher said the increase would cost the town $28,000 in a $3.2 million budget. The commission took no action. Final budget hearings are scheduled Sept. 13 and 24.
• Approved unanimously the site plan for the fourth of six lots carved from the former Spence estate on North Ocean Boulevard. The plan for the Harbor View Estate lot is a 8.726-square-foot Colonial West Indies-style home, partially two stories with a three-car garage, pool and cabana.