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Forest Service project contracts stay close to home

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| October 8, 2009 12:00 AM

The first projects put out to bid by Kootenai National Forest through federal stimulus funding attracted a healthy number of bidders.

Paul Stantus, technical services staff officer who oversees stimulus projects for the Kootenai, told Lincoln County commissioners Wednesday morning that most involved bidders from the immediate area.

“The first projects that went out, we got just a lot of bidders, an unusual amount of bidders,” Stantus said. “Everyone’s pretty hungry … almost all of them were local contractors that got the awards.”

Stantus said that all but one project drew bids from within the region.

“We have a couple from Bonners (Ferry) and Sandpoint but most are Libby, Eureka, Thompson Falls,” Stantus said. “So things are moving and there’s a lot more to come.”

Contracts are now being awarded with a few getting started. However, Stantus said most will be waiting to work following this winter.

“Some of the projects because of weather and other reasons will start again in the spring,” Stantus said. “Others are to be advertised this winter and be ready for implementation in the spring.”

Stantus said he was surprised that some projects received no bids. He explained that projects are advertised on a federal business opportunities website (fbo.gov) and many potential bidders did not see them.

“We think perhaps it was some of our contractors aren’t used to looking there,” Stantus said.

One project that received no bids involved an eight- to nine-mile stretch of asphalt overlay on Grave Creek Road near Eureka.

Commissioner John Konzen asked about publishing available projects in the newspaper. Stantus said the forest would likely put out a news release listing projects and post it on the Kootenai’s website.

The question about just how many jobs have been created through stimulus funding surfaced but Stantus was not able to come up with a number. However, he stressed that contractors from the immediate area are getting the work.

“We were a little apprehensive that we would get a lot of out-of-state contractors and what not … and that hasn’t happened,” Stantus said.