POINT COMFORT – The Calhoun Port Authority board voted Wednesday to reject a bid from RLB Contracting Inc. to dredge the port’s berthing areas and instead pay the government to complete the work.
RLB Contracting Inc., which is owned by Randy L. Boyd, who served as the port’s chairman for many years before being voted out of office in May, submitted a bid of $1,641,280 on Sept. 11 to get the project done between 30 and 90 days.
The board held off awarding that contract to advertise for more bids at its last regular meeting. The Army Corps of Engineers dredging contractor proposed a bottom line of $1.4 million, which Port Engineer David Knuckey recommended to the board.
Knuckey said that he looked into rebidding the project at a later date, but there is a high demand for contractors expected in the next 12 to 16 months and a scarcity of pipeline dredges capable of dredging to water depths of 42 feet.
“I talked to three different major dredging companies, and they all say the same thing,” he said. “Right now, there is more work out there than there are dredges.”
Currently, T.W. LaQuay Marine has the contract for maintenance and has subcontracted the dredging to Crosby Dredging, of Louisiana. Knuckey said he was hoping Crosby would bid on the contract, but did not.
The Corps is able to start dredging about 190,000 cubic yards by the end of October or early November, Knuckey said. That project expected to take about 35 to 40 days, depending on traffic.
Before voting, board member Johnny J. Perez asked whether the port had any liability to go with RLB Contracting because the company submitted its bid on time.
Sandra Witte, one of the port’s attorneys, said the port can legally go with the Corps’ bid.
Knuckey also said he ran the possibility of rejection by Boyd.
“I did ask him (Boyd) flat out, if we reject your bid are you going to be upset?” Knuckey said. “But the indication I got from him was that he had lots of work coming up (and) he wouldn’t be upset because he knew his bid was higher than what T.W. LaQuay bid to the federal contractor.”
The board also approved an audit of the port’s fire protection system, which is about 22 or 23 years old. While the system is annually inspected, an audit like the one Fire Risk & Safety Technologies proposed for $33,490 has never been done to the board’s knowledge.
“We just want to make sure the system is working absolutely at 110%,” said Port Director Charles Hausmann.
The audit will take about a month to complete and entail no actual work to the system, but rather an evaluation of all data and records regarding the existing fire protection equipment that will result in recommendations for best practices.
Lastly, the board discussed a tariff increase request from the Matagorda Bay Pilots to go into effect on Jan. 1, during a Matagorda Bay Pilot Board meeting.
The pilots are employed to safely navigate and berth vessels through the Matagorda Bay entrance channel and jetties, which Capt. Steve Gibson, a branch pilot for the Matagorda Ship Channel, said are documented to have some of the strongest tides and currents in the U.S.
The pilots last tariff increase was in 2015 for a 4-year agreement that ends in December. Gibson said the group has done everything it can to cut down costs over the years.
All three Matagorda Bay Pilots were present to answer questions about proposed rate increases for base, education and training, port assessment, administration, boat assessment and shifting fees, as well as deadweight tonnage and draft foot charges.
The board praised the pilots’ work and noted that their fees remain low compared to pilots in other ports, even with the increases requested.
“I couldn’t find anything online to compare what a normal rate increase looked like,” said board member Luis De La Garza. “But some of these other numbers that I was able to find ... I will tell you guys, just in the research I have done, these are all very low numbers.”