State Treasurer Terry Hayes has resolved a standoff with Gov. Paul LePage that imperiled dozens of transportation projects and the jobs they create during Maine’s short construction season.

Hayes and LePage both issued statements Wednesday acknowledging that they had settled their differences on the process that will be used in the future to hire a bond agent – the person who brings state bonds to market.

Hayes said she has agreed to re-issue a request for proposal in July seeking a new bond sales agent. The governor commended Hayes for her action, which will keep the projects put out to bid by the Department of Transportation on track for completion this summer and fall.

“It is absolutely critical the state supports our construction industry, and I appreciate Treasurer Hayes’ cooperation with me to ensure these jobs are not jeopardized,” LePage said in a statement. “This was never a political disagreement; rather it was a procedural one.

“Most importantly, Mainers can now get to work on improving our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that is so vital to our economy.”

Three weeks ago, Hayes said that the governor ordered the Maine Department of Transportation to not solicit bids for transportation projects, taking the step after he criticized Hayes for writing an RFP that he said favored big law firms from out of state.

Hayes issued the request for proposals to hire the bond agent with stipulations that the winning bidder have experience as a bond agent in other states, a condition she deemed necessary because of the complicated nature of the bond work and the possible exposure to Maine taxpayers if it’s mishandled. Bond agents are considered specialists within the legal industry.

But the governor said those stipulations unnecessarily excluded Maine law firms, and he said he heard from some of them that wanted a chance to bid on the work. In protest, LePage refused to give Hayes the amount of bonds to be sold in June. Without a specific amount, the bonds could not be sold and construction companies could not be awarded contracts.

Portland-based Preti Flaherty was the only other law firm that bid on the request for proposals to act as bond counsel for 2017. The contract was eventually awarded to Locke Lord LLP, a Texas law firm that has functioned as the state’s bond agent since 2004.

Hayes said Locke Lord Boston office was hired to serve as the state’s bond sales agent. Locke Lord’s website says it is an international firm with offices in several major U.S. cities, as well as Hong Kong and London.

Hayes, who has announced that she will run as an independent candidate for governor in 2018, denies that the RFP process favored or excluded any law firm from entering a bid for the $80,000 contract, adding in a telephone interview Wednesday that the bid proposal requirements were standard stock.

“There is nothing new here. This is all a figment of the governor’s imagination,” Hayes said.

Hayes sent a letter to LePage on Wednesday in which she notified him that she would re-issue the Treasury Department’s RFP for bond counsel during the week of July 10, but only after the “successful completion of the June 2017 general obligation bond sale.”

“It is important to note that Treasury is offering this resolution to the current political conflict because of the need to resume the routine construction schedule to enhance public safety and to put Mainers and Maine companies back to work,” Hayes said in her letter.

“Treasury stands by the integrity of the RFP process and outcome from earlier this year, but makes this concession solely because delaying or canceling the transportation construction season is contrary to everyone’s best interests.”

The state could sell up to $110 million in voter-approved bonds – the majority of which will be spent on state transportation projects, Hayes said. Maine also is eligible to receive an additional $500 million in federal and matching local funds for transportation projects.

Hayes said the $110 million bond includes funds for transportation projects, clean water projects and Land for Maine’s Future projects, among others.

Hayes expects to find out Thursday the exact amount of bonds that can be sold during the first week in June. The bond amount has to be authorized by the governor.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Hayes’ action will allow the department to begin accepting bids on transportation projects on May 17. Talbot does not expect the delayed start to negatively affect projects.

“All the projects that were scheduled to be done this summer will proceed as planned,” Talbot said Wednesday night.

Talbot said the end to the stalemate is good news because of Maine’s weather-dependent construction season, which is short compared to many parts of the country. Road paving, for example, starts in the spring and ends in November.

The dispute also sparked alarm within Maine’s building trades.

Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine, praised Hayes for resolving the matter quickly. He said the Department of Transportation has started to sign contracts for the winners of project bids and will restart a normal bid schedule.

His members lobbied both sides intensely in the last few days to come to a quick resolution, Marks said. Now they are breathing a sigh of relief that they can go back to business as usual.

“Our fear was, if this went into next week, you could see the work window decrease,” Marks said. “Because the deal was done in a timely fashion, it means we are not going to lose any jobs and kick them off into next year.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.