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City looks to streamline construction bidding process, hire more staff

The city of San Diego is streamlining its bidding process for public works projects to pay contractors faster and hire more engineers.

During a recent construction industry quarterly meeting at the city’s Public Works Department, it was learned the City Council may adopt a resolution to accept electronic signatures on construction bids.

The Public Works Department and Purchasing and Contracting Departments are soliciting this idea.

James Nagelvoort, director of the Public Works Department, said the department can publicize construction projects going out to bid electronically but must receive the bids in person because an ink-pen signature is needed.

Accepting electronic signatures means the city would be able to advertise more construction contracts and award more public works projects throughout the year, Nagelvoort said.

“The biggest reason why this is so important is capacity,” he said. “We typically only hold bid openings to accept bids three days a week in one conference room and everyone has to come in person by the 2 p.m. deadline. This is a very old style of doing things.”

Nagelvoort said currently, the city can put only six projects per week out to bid and that the Public Works Department can accept bids in person only 10 months out of the year.

Nagelvoort said that with an electronic signature system, the department would not be limited to putting out an average of 200 contracts per year, since contractors would be able to post their bids electronically.

“This new electronic signature system can open the doors for us to advertise more infrastructure projects and process more bids because we would be able to process bids as we get them electronically though out the day without needing to set time aside to accept them in person,” Nagelvoort said. “This should allow us to put more contractors to work and fix roads and put in new infrastructures for the public.”

Nagelvoort said the decision to accept or deny electric signatures will go in front of the City Council sometime in November. If this resolution is adopted, this new bidding process could be in place as soon as January.

The city of San Diego is also working to improve its software program that electronically distributes checks to contractors for award contracts and work completed.

Currently, the program distributes money 30 days after the city receives an invoice from the contractor for a particular job. Nagelvoort said they want to get it to 25 days.

“It’s up to us to get the software where we can program it to cut checks from 30 to 25 days,” Nagelvoort said, adding that there is better technology out there now to streamline this processes. “Our IT guys are working on it.”

Nagelvoort said this new payment process is expected to be rolled out in the next few months.

The Public Works Department will also be looking to hire 30 new positions, mainly entry-level engineers, starting in January.

“We are starting to see the economy pick up, so we were approved to hire 30 new positions next year,” Nagelvoort said. This would add to the 28 vacancies the Public Works Department has. “We are trying to fill those vacancies right now.”

Nagelvoort said the city is going to area colleges including San Diego State University to recruit graduating engineers.

“The main positions we are trying to fill are junior civil engineer, engineering aide and assistant engineers,” Nagelvoort said. Management positions are also going to become available due to retirements, such as Dave Zoumaras, deputy director of field engineering.

“We haven’t seen this number of vacancies since 2001,” Nagelvoort said.

Anyone looking to apply for positions with the city must contact the personnel department at (619) 236-6400.

carlos.rico@sddt.com

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