Armed with cameras, plans and ideas, prospective contractors for a new U.S. Coast Guard boathouse in Menemsha toured the historic fishing village last week to visit the site of what will be, once built, the largest structure in the harbor.

The project went out to bid this spring. Four prequalified contractors responded to the Coast Guard’s request for proposals, and last Wednesday those contractors, along with nearly 20 of their subcontractors, walked the property in Menemsha with the agency’s design team.

The contractors are part of the National Multi-Award Contract system, a group of prequalified governmental contractors who work regularly with the government and have experience in Coast Guard operations. The bidding companies include Tutor Perini of Sylmar, Calif.; CDM Smith, based in Cambridge; Mortenson, a Minneapolis based company; and Tetra Tech Tesora, based in Virginia Beach, Va.

menemsha pier
Coast Guard dock directly abuts Menemsha’s public pier. — Ray Ewing

The proposed boathouse will replace the 68-year-old boathouse that was completely destroyed, along with the surrounding pier system, in the July 2010 Menemsha fire. The piers have since been rebuilt.

The new boathouse design has been a point of contention between the Coast Guard and Chilmark town leaders, who are concerned about the size of the building. The original boathouse was 3,000 square feet and one story high. The new design calls for 4,800 square feet and three stories, including space designed to accommodate the station’s 27-foot search and rescue vessel. Coast Guard leaders say increased size meets long-term planning goals for station Menemsha. The town selectmen and historical commission object to the height of the structure, which is six feet taller than the original boathouse, and its protrusion into the harbor.

Bid specifications require contractors to provide a strategy for reducing the overall height of the building, along with a detailed plan of the staging area and a plan to minimize impact to traffic, among other things.

“Part of the process is considering what’s in the bid — how are they going to work with the town, how are they going to make it as low impact as possible,” public affairs officer Lieut. Joe Klinker said. “The challenge will be how to build a facility to hold modern-day Coast Guard operations while honoring the heritage of Menemsha.”

menemsha coast guard
Jason Olsen (right), Menemsha station senior chief, leads a tour. — Ray Ewing

Congress has approved $10 million for the project. Senior field contracting officer Pam Argilan, who is in charge of the bidding process, said oral presentations will be held in August with the bid awarded by the end of September or the middle of October. Construction is expected to start three to six months after the award.

The new boathouse is a design-build project, which allows contractors to flex the design to best fit their plans. Ms. Argilan said the Coast Guard will look at “best valued trade-off” in the differing designs and examine which design best meets the needs of the Coast Guard, adding that lowest bidder may not necessarily win the award. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Ms. Argilan said contractors would work as fast as possible.

“They want to come in and do it right and get out as fast possible,” she said.

Staging of the construction will be a puzzle, project manager Lou Vinciguerra said, and barges will be brought in to hold building materials.

“We anticipate coming in with two large barges that will sit within the area to stage materials,” Mr. Vinciguerra said. “They can also work off their own site, like when you frame a house and build up from the foundation.”

The town’s public pier, which has about 20 boat slips and directly abuts the Coast Guard dock, will remain open during construction.