City, Corps to sign partnership agreement on port expansion
Now that the City of Nome has selected a site for a potential temporary workforce camp, the last hurdle has been cleared to sign a formal partnership agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, and the port expansion project should be advancing on schedule. That’s what the Port Commission heard from Port of Nome Director Joy Baker last week during its regular meeting.
“We’ve executed the documents, we just have to follow up with the formality [of the signing ceremony],” Baker said. “Essentially we’ve signed the agreement.”
She expected the ceremony with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take place sometime in October.
Once that agreement is in place, phase one of project will go out to bid.
Baker had told the Nome Common Council earlier this month that the project’s timeline could face delays if the City and Corps didn’t sign the project partnership agreement by Sept. 30. The final hold up in the agreement had been the City’s selection of a site for a man camp to house workers for the port expansion. On Sept. 13, the Nome Common Council voted in a special session on a site and passed a resolution to award Alaska Gold Co. an option to lease a portion of Satellite Field.
The Corps had required the City of Nome, as the non-federal sponsor of the project, to secure the land for man camp facilities. But Baker emphasized that the deal with Alaska Gold is only an option to lease.
“The awarded contractor has to elect to use such a space, unless he has better plans elsewhere,” Baker said. “It’s not a requirement.”
John Budnik, a public affairs specialist with the Corps’ Alaska District, told the Nugget by email the site chosen by the City will be put in the contracting documents as the land provided for the workforce camp. “In the unlikely scenario a contractor would not use the site, an assessment of the proposed location by the City and [the Corps] would occur,” said Budnik.
The Sept. 21 port commission meeting was unusually full as a group from Bering Straits Native Corporation and Kiewit Corporation sat in the audience. During citizens’ comments, Pat Harrison, the Alaska area manager for Kiewit Infrastructure of Anchorage, introduced himself and his team.
“We’re just interested parties in the upcoming project at the harbor and in town visiting,” Harrison said. Kiewit is presumably one of the contractors likely to bid on the expansion work.
At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Derek McLarty pointed to their presence as a sign that the port expansion will soon be a reality.
“This project’s really coming to fruition,” McLarty said.
In addition to McLarty, Commissioners Charlie Lean, Russell Rowe and Gay Sheffield were present, forming a scant quorum.
In a work session ahead of the regular meeting, they reviewed proposals for two new studies on the Port of Nome’s rates and its future developments.
The City of Nome had put out a call for proposals for both studies last month. The deadline for submissions was last Thursday.
The commissioners first looked at a proposal from the Anchorage-based firm Northern Economics to complete a tariff rate study and analysis for the port. Northern Economics was the only firm that submitted a bid, proposing to do the job for $66,400. Baker said that the proposal was 25 to 30 percent above what had been budgeted, but not beyond market rates.
“This is their forte,” Baker said. The firm did the port’s last rate study, in 2013, and Baker said that “it was very thorough and comprehensive.” However, the Port of Nome did not take Northern Economics’ recommendation a decade ago to double its rates and instead opted for a more incremental approach.
The commissioners next looked at the two very different proposals submitted for the port’s strategic development plan. The Las Vegas-based company Wise Business Plans LLC proposed to do the study for $48,750. Baker and the commissioners voiced concern about the quality of the proposal—the appearance of copy-and-pasting, and the lack of a demonstrated effort to show that the firm understood the needs of Nome.
Another, more detailed proposal came from PND Engineers, a firm that has a wealth of experience in Nome. The company proposed to do the job for $224,000.
“They’re definitely more than capable of doing it,” Baker said. “Their number’s got quite a bit of shock value to it.”
Baker said the proposals were supposed to be evaluated on their price, experience and demonstrated knowledge of the work. She noted that the City could potentially modify the scope of the proposed work—or tell a bidder that they promised more work than was necessary—and request a price change.
Later, during the regular meeting, the commissioners decided to table a motion to approve a proposal for either study.
In his report to the commission, Harbormaster Lucas Stotts said the port has been busy with the season’s final gravel export operations and fuel transfers.
The cruise season is also nearing its end. The cruise ship Sylvia Earle was docked at Nome longer than anticipated last week so that a faulty port engine could be repaired. Stotts had been expecting the Sylvia Earle to be the last ship Nomeites would see at the docks. The next vessel, Le Boreal, like the Sylvia Earle, came through the Northwest Passage and had lost propulsion in one engine on its way to Nome. Stotts said they were able to make repairs while underway which allowed them to dock. The final cruise ship of the season, Le Commandant Charcot, is expected to arrive on October 5, but it’s too big to fit on the docks and will anchor offshore.
Stotts noted that a weather buoy that had been stored in Nome’s Public Works building had suffered some fire damage and didn’t get fixed until recently. It couldn’t be deployed this year, but now it’s ready to go next spring. Stotts also said there’s two new gold dredging vessels—one 68 feet long, and another 74 feet long—on their way to Nome, “continuing that trend of seeing more large vessels and less of the small kind.”