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Army Corps contracting process continues despite Coronavirus Pandemic

Rockaway Beach

Published July 1, 2020
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Rockaway Beach

For decades, the Rockaway Beach community in the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn in New York City has been devastated by hurricanes and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was no exception.

As a result of these storms, the beach has lost considerable sand, making the community vulnerable to flooding, economic damage, and loss of life.

Since the 1970’s, the New York District has been performing sand replenishment work for Rockaway Beach. After Hurricane Sandy, the district restored 3.5 million cubic yards of sand, enough material to fill the Empire State Building two times over.

Early this year, the project’s team was preparing to hold a contract bid opening meeting that would kick start the first of multiple contracts to continue this critical work, but Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived and so did social distancing.

To protect the safety of employees, the district had staff work from home.  At the same time, the district received the critical FEMA mission to construct Alternate Care Facilities throughout the region. These ACF’s provide extra bed space for New York hospitals dealing with the overwhelming number of Coronavirus cases.

As in the past, when critical missions are given to the district, the district doesn’t let other missions fall to the way side.

The Rockaway project was no different. Since social distancing had to be implemented, the Rockaway Project team decided to go virtual.

For the first time in the Army Corp’s history, the district performed a contract bid opening meeting virtually. It was a success and got the contract awarded, allowing this critical work to move forward for the 850,000 residence of Rockaway Beach.

Daniel Falt, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “This contract will provide the community storm damage risk reduction measures that includes the construction of fourteen new stone groin structures and the rehabilitation of five groin structures.”  Groins are beach structures that reduce sand erosion on a beach.

This work would not have been possible if the contract bid opening meeting wasn’t done virtually.

Francis Cashman, District Contracting Chief, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explains how these meetings are typically done and how they made it virtual.

“Normally, a contract bid opening meeting is held on an appointed day at 2 p.m. in the district’s Contracting Division bid opening room. Contractors bidding to perform the work must have their bids submitted at this time.

During the meeting, the district’s contract specialist reads out loud the bid process.

In attendance are contractors, interested Army Corps’ employees and other governmental parties who come to hear who the apparent low bidder is in line for the award,” he said.

Cashman said to make this process virtual some of the typical contract bid opening meeting details had to be changed. “We still had the bids due at 2 p.m. on a specific day – in this case April 14, but instead of an in-person meeting, we had a conference call line open to the public at 2:30 p.m. On the call, the district’s contract specialist read the prices of all the bidders and the independent government estimate.”

Ultimately, the virtual meeting was a success and the contract was awarded on April 27.  The work will begin this spring.

Cashman attributes much of the virtual contract bid opening meeting’s success to Nicole Fauntleroy, contract specialist, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  He said she amended the solicitation to put in the rules for the virtual bid opening, handled all inquiries, led the bid opening meeting by reading all of the bids on the call, and posted the bid sheet on beta.sam for all of those who could not call into the bid opening. 

Not only was the virtual contract bid opening meeting a success, but the district is sharing its lessons learned with others. Fauntleroy is now training the Philadelphia District on how they can perform their first virtual contract bid opening.

When asked what can be done to make this process better in the future, she said that contractors will be requested to limit the size of their bid documents in order to make the meeting move along faster.

Cashman said, “The success of the virtual contract bid opening meeting shows that we can do work remotely without missing a beat which is obviously very important in this time we are living through.”

Falt said, “The process worked flawlessly, and should remain as another tool in the toolbox for future work, even without pandemic restrictions.”

Falt added, “The entire team felt that it was important to keep work on schedule despite the COVID-19 emergency.  It was a boost for the New York District team's morale, as well as for the public. It also symbolizes that the Army Corps is keeping our commitments to the stakeholders and the public, even while accomplishing other vitally important actions for the Coronavirus pandemic.”