The Haines Borough is awaiting approval from MARAD (The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration Division) to finalize its contract with an owner’s advisor – and settle on a design-builder – for the Lutak Dock reconstruction project.

On Tuesday borough manager Annette Kreitzer met with MARAD representatives to try to speed up the process. She said she wanted to help them understand “our short season and that we really need their approval to enter into these contracts.”

The assembly on July 12 unanimously authorized a $202,499 contract with R&M Consultants as the owner’s advisor for the project. Although the contract has been approved, it cannot be signed before MARAD approves the project.

Any money the borough spends on the project without MARAD approval will be considered “in excess of project costs,” Kreitzer explained. That means it won’t count towards the 20% match requirement for the federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant which is mostly funding the project. The 20% match comprises $2.4 million from the borough’s Lutak Dock Enterprise funds and $3.2 million of state funds.

The borough will also need MARAD’s approval to proceed with a contract for a design-build team. Kreitzer said three design-build companies responded to the borough’s request for proposals: Turnagain Marine Construction, Western Marine Construction and Pacific Pile Marine. The borough is in contract negotiation with Turnagain Marine Construction, Kreitzer said. That contract will have to be approved by the assembly.

Meanwhile, the borough has aimed to educate the public about the general construction model – called a “progressive design-build” – that it will use for the project. At a virtual Committee of the Whole meeting July 20, Robynne Thaxton, a Seattle-based consultant, gave a public presentation about the advantages of a progressive design-build, which the borough has chosen over a traditional design-bid-build process. (The presentation did not include details specific to the dock project.)

Rather than hiring two companies – one to design and engineer the project and the other, later, to carry out those plans – the borough will hire one company for both planning and construction.

Thaxton said a progressive design-build eliminates the “liability gap” inherent in a traditional approach, which allows designers and construction companies to blame each other for problems that arise. As another safeguard against liability issues, the borough will provide “performance requirements” – such as stresses and weather conditions the dock must be able to withstand, as well as the kinds of vessels that will need to use it – instead of prescriptive requirements involving methods and materials.

A progressive design-build also allows the owner (in this case, the borough) to set a price cap at the beginning, rather than waiting for the completion of design to determine how much a project will cost.

Haines Borough Assembly member Gabe Thomas voiced his strong approval of the approach, grounded in his construction experience. He praised the model for “taking away the excuse of ‘We didn’t design it, we just built it.’ I’m guilty of that. I’ve been using that for 20-plus years.”

This is the first time the borough has used a progressive design-build approach, Kreitzer said. As preparation, harbormaster Shawn Bell attended a full-day online training about progressive design-builds in March. It is also the first time the borough is contracting with an owner’s advisor. The owner’s advisor will help review qualifications of the design-build team, facilitate communications between the borough and the design-builder and make “regular status reports and briefings.”

The entire dock project is slated to cost about $25 million. The borough has set aside $2.4 million to match a federal grant and state funds. Construction could begin as soon as 2023.