Certified disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) now have free access to the city of Monroe’s electronic bidding portal for city construction projects.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo announced the city’s new electronic bidding format during the Monroe City Council’s regular meeting last week.

DBEs are businesses operated by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, often either female or African-American.

“We’re making this available to all certified DBEs,” said Mayo.

In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Mayo’s Director of Administration Stacey Rowell expressed hope the change would increase the involvement of DBEs in future projects.

“One thing is it’s going to broaden the scope of the contractors who should be available to see the projects that are out there,” said Rowell. “The DBEs will be available to go and retrieve documents. They don’t have to pay to download. Hopefully it will facilitate the number of DBEs who participate.”

Quest is the new software used for the city’s website for the bidding of construction projects, according to Rowell.

“One of our engineering firms that handled the airport projects have been using this (software) for several years for their projects,” said Rowell. “Now that they’re handling some of our city projects. We’ve been using it through them.”

The new system does not require certified DBEs to pay a fee to access city construction projects like the old bidding system did, according to Rowell.

“We’ve always had an electronic bid platform,” said Rowell. “With Quest, the DBEs do not have to pay to use the system.”

DBEs must be certified through the Unified Certification Program of the state Department of Transportation and Development in order to access the bidding system for free, according to Rowell.

Contractors must pay a $30 fee to use the system, but qualified DBEs do not have to pay that fee, according to Rowell.

“That is not a city of Monroe fee. That is the company. We don’t get that money,” said Rowell.

The electronic bidding system has been active for two weeks, according to Rowell. The electronic bidding portal for Monroe City projects can be accessed at monroe.la.us.

Kenneth Wilson expressed satisfaction after Mayo’s announcement of the new electronic bidding system that benefits DBEs.

Wilson has often urged the city to involve more DBEs in construction projects.

In other news, City Council members accepted the base bid of Jabar Corporation of $213,722.90 for water improvements and water main replacement of the Parkview and Ruffin Drive project.

The project will install two main sectional water lines that are in the Parkview Drive area. Details of the project include replacing current 6-inch mains with 8-inch mains.

“This new main will help the pressure in that whole general area,” said Arthur Holland, the city’s project manager.

The project also includes the installation of new fire hydrants for the Parkview Drive area along with Wossman High School, Minnie Ruffin Elementary and the new Martin luther King Jr. Middle School receiving their own separate fire protection line running from the main, according to Holland.

The bid was accepted during the City Council’s meeting. City Council members Kenneth Wilson, Michael Echols and Gretchen Ezernack were present for the motion.

When asked if there are any problems or violations with the current water system, Holland answered it is an opportunity to upgrade the system.

“We got an opportunity to improve the system and make it better,” said Holland. “It’ll help your water pressure and quality of water.”

According to Holland, the project is a 150-day contract and is expected to be completed before the new Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School opens.

“With the approval tonight, I would say the contract will get on the way by the first of the year,” said Holland.

Holland said there will be minimum road closures during construction.

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