Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Requirements Still Apply for Emergency Public Works Contracts?

When a public agency has declared an emergency and waived competitive bidding requirements for a public works construction project, what is being waived is the contractor bidding and selection process.  In other words, under an emergency contract seeking bids is not required.  

Not enough time to conduct a bid process:  The nature of emergencies dictates that there is not sufficient time to conduct a bid process without raising the risk that individuals may be injured, property damaged, or that the essential functions of government may not be fulfilled.  The definition of an emergency public work varies by state. In Washington state, it is defined in RCW 39.04.280. 

What is required for emergencies:  The following is a list of some of the requirements that still apply for emergency public works projects.  Generally, only the selection process is waived through the emergency declaration.  While this list is based on Washington state law, portions of it may also apply for other states, depending on their specific requirements:
  • Declaration of emergency:  A formal declaration of an emergency must be made.  See RCW 39.04.280.
  • Bidder Responsibility:   The mandatory bidder responsibility criteria of RCW 39.04.350 still apply for emergency contracts.
  • Contract:  There should still be a public works contract documenting the various requirements and the dollar amount of the project, even if it is for a time and materials, not-to-exceed amount.
  • Prevailing wages:  Prevailing wages must still be paid consistent with the requirements of RCW 39.12.
  • Intent:  A Statement of Intent to Pay Prevailing Wages must be approved by the Department of Labor and Industries and filed with the public agency prior to making any payments to the contractor.  A separate Intent must be completed for the contractor and each subcontractor, regardless of tier.
  • Affidavit:  An Affidavit of Wages Paid must be approved by the Department of Labor and Industries and filed with the public agency prior to making payment of retainage to the contractor.  A separate Affidavit must be completed for the contractor and each subcontractor, regardless of tier.
  • Bonds:  A payment and performance bond must be submitted to the agency for the work, in accordance with RCW 39.08.
  • Insurance:  The amounts and types of insurance required on a public works project are governed by each agency and not by Washington state law. 
  • Retainage:  Retainage should be withheld from each progress payment.  See RCW 60.28.  The only exceptions to not withholding retainage is if a retainage bond is submitted by the contractor or if the contractor was selected through the Limited Public Works process under the Small Works Roster (for public works projects less than $35,000), in which case there would have been no need to waive the competitive bidding process.
Timing of emergencies:  While the above items are still required under Washington state law for an emergency public work, agencies must ensure that health, safety, and property are protected and that an agency's essential functions continue to serve the public.  Sometimes, due to the emergency nature of the project, it is important to get a contractor on the job site immediately, perhaps in the middle of the night, to address the emergency.  In such a case, often some of the paperwork requirements are addressed after the fact. 

Emergency procedures:  Washington state law does not have exemptions for public works requirements on emergency projects, other than for the actual bidding and selection process.  It is important that each public agency have clear emergency public works procedures that will dictate:
  • Compliance:  The timing of compliance with the requirements of state law.
  • Authorization:  Who within the agency is authorized to declare an emergency and waive competitive bidding.  This person or persons should be available at any time, which is why it is often problematic to dictate that only an elected board or council may waive competitive bidding.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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