Mercer-Fraser loses Humboldt Bay Trail lawsuit

The Humboldt Bay Trail North threads the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Brad Finney

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Mercer-Fraser Company's lawsuit against the City of Arcata has failed, with the city prevailing on the merits.

Mercer-Fraser, which lost out on the bid for the nearly $5 million Humboldt Bay Trail North project, claimed that the city had bungled the  bidding process on the project. It cited flaws in city documents which it said induced a number of errors by contractors who had submitted bids, and that the city then improperly disqualified them. Problems cited by Mercer-Fraser include:

  •  The city had asked that a Non-Collusion Affadavit (required by state law to prevent sham bids) be submitted by the “awardee,” although none of the bidders would be an actual awardee until the contract was awarded.
  • An incorrect address for a subcontractor was listed on winning bidder McCullough Construction’s bid.
  • Signatures on various bid documents were missing, and the city never specified that they be signed.

The city held that the errors Mercer-Fraser cited were trivial – basically on the level of typographical errors that didn't substantively affect the integrity of the bidding process. The city also contended that Mercer-Fraser's requested stoppage would cause millions of dollars in grants for the trail to be withdrawn, effectively killing the entire project.

The company had asked that it be awarded the contract for the trail rather than McCullough Construction. The company later attempted to halt construction via a temporary restraining order and then a temporary injunction, both of which were denied.

According to City Attorney Nancy Diamond, Judge Tim Cissna said Monday that the City had properly awarded of the construction contract to McCullough as the lowest responsive responsible bidder, that the City’s Addendum #2 to the bid document clarified that the non-collusion affidavit had to be signed, and that rejection of SEB’s bid as nonresponsive for failing to have submitted the non-collusion affidavit was not “an abuse of discretion.” The judge also pointed out that Mercer-Fraser had submitted a signed non-collusion affidavit.

Humboldt Bay Trail North. City of Arcata image

The HBTN will link Arcata with Eureka via a three-mile, Class 1, ADA-compliant bike and pedestrian trail from Samoa Boulevard to the U.S. Highway 101/Bracut intersection. Located on the North Coast Railroad Authority’s disused rail easement, the trail is part of the Humboldt Bay Trail, and will become part of the California Coastal Trail.

McCullough Construction places a bridge over Jacoby Creek on the Humboldt Bay Trail North earlier this month. Photo by Roger Eckart | Union

Monday, McCullough installed the last of five new bridges the new trail. The 80-foot aluminum bridge is located near Arcata's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The trail's Grand Opening is set for Sunday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. at a location to be announced.





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