Having evidently decided it needs help dealing with the daunting task of fixing the state’s crumbling secondary roads, the state Division of Highways will open bids Thursday to hire consultants to assist in the effort.
According to the request for quotes, the division is seeking an “open-end contract for consulting services to assist with coordination and oversight of the governor’s secondary road maintenance initiative.”
The winning bidder will have to have a minimum of two employees with at least 15 years experience and “extensive knowledge of the Highways department management structure and operations; Highways personnel needs; budgeting and project management; governmental and legislative affairs; knowledge of equipment used for highways maintenance activities, and private sector contractors for highways maintenance.”
The contract will require extensive travel statewide “to coordinate with both district and county [Highways] offices regarding roadway maintenance, status of road projects and related equipment needs.”
Extensive travel will also be required to meet with “industry representatives” regarding maintenance projects, according to the RFQ.
Additionally, the winning bidder will serve as a “liaison of the agency with the Legislature and West Virginia governor’s office.”
The contract also calls on the winning bidder to consult with the state Transportation Secretary and the commissioner of Highways, as requested, on “activities, complaints, issues and observations regarding roadways.”
It is not clear what prompted Highways officials to seek outside expertise on roads maintenance issues, or how much the division has budgeted for the contract. Highways spokesman Brent Walker did not respond to requests for comment.
In March, shortly after he fired then-Transportation Secretary Tom Smith — a 37-year veteran of the Federal Highways Administration — Gov. Jim Justice announced that he was placing a new emphasis on repairing and maintaining crumbling secondary roads around the state, in light of growing public complaints about poor road conditions statewide.
Announcing the initiative, Justice commented, “I want stuff done. That’s all there is to it. The bottom line is, we’re not getting the maintenance done.”
Later in the year, the Legislature moved $104 million of budget surplus to Highways for secondary road maintenance, while the agency shifted about $140 million of pay-go bond funding to that end.
However, that’s still far below the additional $1 billion that the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways concluded the state needed to be spending each year to adequately maintain its roughly 36,000 miles of public highways.
Also in March, Justice named longtime friend and business associate Byrd White as the new Transportation Secretary, and promoted veteran Highways official Jimmy Wriston to the position of commissioner of Highways.
Although the contract is open-ended, the bid sheet requires bidders to quote a daily rate of compensation for a total of 150 days, or 30 workweeks.
Bid opening is set for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.