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5 Tips for Drafting a Bid or Contract for Underground Utilities

The U.S. government is currently investing in major infrastructure projects, including underground utilities, that will give your firm an opportunity to shine. In fact, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2., The Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill delegating $40 billion in wastewater infrastructure. However, drafting both a bid and contract for an underground utilities project may differ from a typical government project. Laying underground utilities, like electric lines, sewers, gas lines, water mains, or phone and cable lines may involve contracts with several different companies as well as government agencies, and therefore more elements to consider. 

Before you begin a project to lay or repair underground utilities, crafting an ironclad bid and contract is key. A Dade County construction attorney with Cotney Construction Law can help you craft your bid and contract for any infrastructure-related project, including laying underground utilities. In this brief article, an attorney shares five tips for drafting a bid or contract for underground utilities.

Related: 3 Things to Consider Before Bidding on Your Next Project

Tip 1: Perform a Jobsite Evaluation

One of the most important steps in crafting your bid and contract lies in evaluating the jobsite. Because laying utilities will likely span over a larger area than a traditional construction project, this may be a time-consuming step but a necessary one. 

Evaluating the jobsite should entail taking any land surveys needed, checking the soil type, and reviewing for other possible hazards. A few things to consider during this visit is site access points, equipment and material staging areas, and existing site conditions. A site visit is a great time to capture some photos of the property, take measurements, and collect samples.

Tip 2: Consider Finances in Detail

Before you bid on an infrastructure project and after you begin crafting your contract, you’ll need to evaluate financing. Although previously it would have seemed that a project backed by the federal government would be guaranteed, that guarantee is less-likely during the pandemic. If the government should experience a fiscal freeze or shutdown, can your firm handle waiting for payment? 

When creating a bid or contract, financing includes everything from the original price estimate and project cash flow to the subcontractor costs, anticipated value of liquidated damage, and the possibility of delay or shortages on payments. If you waste time crafting proposals for projects that you don’t have the working capital necessary for or that will wind up with you becoming entangled in a payment dispute, you’ll suffer serious damages to your bottom line and reputation. It’s no use investing valuable time and resources in inappropriate projects that could be invested elsewhere. This is why it’s so important to conduct your own research and evaluation of the project prior to creating your next bid.

Financing on underground utilities should also include any costs that will be covered upfront by a third party. For example, if a cable company will be supplying the cost of the materials, your bid and contract should specify that from the start. One of our Dade County construction attorneys will review your finance plans and be able to help you craft a bid and contract that pays close attention to all financing details.

Related: The Importance of the Pre-Estimating Process For Project Bidding

Tip 3: Consider Creating Alliances

More and more contractors are choosing to step into more of a partner role in their infrastructure projects with project alliancing. Project alliancing is a relationship-based project delivery model designed for complex infrastructure projects in which all parties agree to resolve conflicts internally without litigation or arbitration. This is vastly different from the low-bid, design-bid-build packages contractors are accustomed to. 

Instead, all delivery partners or parties work together to develop the schedule, scope, and budget. They create a single contract and operate under the same joint management structure throughout the project. There is still some hesitation on the owner’s part to take advantage of these alternative methods; however, they could become more willing if exposed to the potential time and budget savings. This can be a major time saver in completing an underground utilities project because it allows all companies involved to share the load of potentially large area projects and turn longer timelines around faster. Our team of Dade County contractor lawyers can help you decide if contract alliancing is right for your underground utility project. 

Tip 4: Create Clear Timelines with Delays Factored In

Timelines must be included in both the bid and the contract. Without them, you risk wasting time and money or angering a client (even when the client is the government). Especially in the case of underground utilities, delays can lead to major inconveniences for the community as a whole and other serious repercussions. 

For this reason, when you create your timetable in any bid or contract, you must pad in time for possible delays. Of course, during a global pandemic, the delays may be a bit more unpredictable than in projects completed in previous years; however, some delays can be predicted. For example, you can pad in time for weather delays, shipping delays on materials, and even time to account for possible employee sick time. A Dade County contractor lawyer can help you create a clear timeline and will help you consider all possible delays.

Related: The Importance of Documenting Project Delays and Damages Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tip 5: Hire an Attorney to Review Your Bid and Contract

The single most helpful and important thing you can do when you are crafting a bid or contract for any project, but especially one for underground utilities, is to have an attorney on your side. There is a common misconception that you only need an attorney in a construction dispute, but a Dade County contractor lawyer can help review bids and contracts, help with licensing and permit concerns, and more. 

If you are working on a bid or contract for any infrastructure project, contact one of the Dade County construction attorneys with Cotney Construction Law as soon as possible. Not only do we advise our clients on legal matters, but we also provide a myriad of other valuable services for construction businesses, including contract review, employment law advice, and litigation and arbitration services. We also advocate for clients involved in licensing complaints, permitting issues, stop-work orders, business immigration, and more. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Dade County construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.