Oak Bluffs selectmen reversed a decision made two weeks earlier and voted unanimously to reject all bids to restore the failing North Bluff coastal bank and seawall after a protest from one of the companies which bid on the project. Town manager Robert Whritenour recommended the action at a special meeting Tuesday evening after discussions with the town’s lawyer and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

At a Sept. 22 meeting, the board voted unanimously to award MIG Corporation of Action the $5.2 million project to shore up the coastal bank with sheet piling, and create a boardwalk from Oak Bluffs Harbor to the new fishing pier. The board did not execute a contract with MIG Corporation after town officials were notified of the bid protest. Northern Construction Service of Weymouth disputed the selectmen’s decision, contending it submitted the low bid, and should have been awarded the job.

“Apparently there was some ambiguity that exists in terms of the method for which the low bidders would be calculated,” Mr. Whritenour told selectmen. “It was the attorney general that suggested the most efficient means. If time is a factor, the board could simply reject the bids, rebid it and clarify that ambiguity.”

The attorney general’s Fair Labor Division was prepared to initiate hearings and make a decision on the dispute, but the time required for that process, and the possibility of further litigation, may have delayed the start of construction, Mr. Whritenour said.

The ambiguity stems from the request for proposal prepared by CLE Engineering. The bid asked construction firms to submit a base bid and then two alternative plans that would have added features to the base project. The town, however, decided it could not afford the extra features, so selectmen chose MIG Corporation, which submitted the lowest base bid, $5.24 million. Northern Construction Services bid $5.35 million for the base project. But the total of bids for the base project and the two alternative plans submitted by Northern Construction Service was lower ($5.89 million) than the bid from MIG Corporation ($5.95 million) for the base project and alternatives.

Rebidding the project creates an unusual situation. All of the firms that bid on the project now know their competitors’ bids. Any new companies that may want to bid on the project also know the bids submitted earlier.

“I don’t see it hurting us to get a new bid,” Mr. Whritenour said. “Maybe we’ll have more competition.”

Selectmen Michael Santoro, Greg Coogan, Kathy Burton and Gail Barmakian voted to reject all bids and start over. Selectman Walter Vail did not attend the meeting.

At the Sept. 22 meeting, Mr. Whritenour, as well as the town’s engineering consultant and its project manager, urged immediate action on awarding the bid. They cited a tight timeline to complete the project by June 30, 2016, as required by state grants that fund most of the project. Mr. Whritenour said the rebidding process could be completed by Oct. 22, in time to award a contract and begin construction on time.

The entire project, with engineering and project management costs, totals $5.9 million, which falls short of funding needed for the project. Voters at a Nov. 17 special town meeting will be asked to allocate Community Preservation Act funds to make up the shortfall.

At Tuesday’s meeting, opposition to the design also surfaced. The new sheet piling wall will be reinforced by boulders to prevent erosion. Planning board chairman Brian Packish criticized the board for taking action without holding additional public hearings on the design. He said the new configuration will extend about eight feet at its narrowest point, and about 20 feet at its widest point, beyond the present sea wall.

“Essentially it’s directly at the high water mark,” Mr. Packish said. He noted that the beach in front of the North Bluff is fondly remembered by many Islanders as the place they took swimming lessons as kids. “At high tide, there is zero sand to walk on. It may not be the nicest beach in our town but it is a beach in our town. For many people, particularly day trippers, it’s probably their only experience with a beach.”

Chairman Santoro acknowledged the design will preserve the shoreline, while town officials continue to work on permits to put new sand on the beach.

“If we don’t build this wall, that whole wall is going to crash down and you won’t be able to walk at all,” Mr. Santoro said. “The reason we’re doing this is to protect the beach.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, selectmen appointed Allyson Malik as interim Oak Bluffs Public Library director, following the resignation of library director Sondra Murphy, who is leaving Oct. 16. Ms. Malik is currently adult and technology services librarian.

The town has already placed advertisements to recruit a library director, and expects to make a hiring decision in 60 to 90 days.