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Small Public Works Rosters

This page provides a basic overview of small works roster requirements for local governments in Washington State, including roster membership, procedures, and the limited public works process.

It is part of MRSC's series on Public Works Contracts.

For more detailed information, download MRSC's Small Works Roster Manual for Local Governments. For information on MRSC's roster program, see the MRSC Rosters website.

New legislation: SB 5268 will make a number of changes to the small works roster process. In particular:

  • Effective July 1, 2023: Port districts and irrigation districts may use a small works roster process for projects up to $350,000 like all other authorized local governments (see sections 31 and 35).
  • Effective July 1, 2024: MRSC Rosters will become the designated statewide roster, and roster authorization will expand to include all local governments that are authorized to perform public works. There will also be a number of changes to the roster contracting process that we will write about later. (See sections 14-16 in particular.)

What is a Small Public Works Roster?

Small works rosters are lists of qualified contractors who can bid for an eligible project below $350,000. Rosters are less restrictive and time-consuming than full formal competitive bids. RCW 39.04.155(2) establishes the requirements for roster contracts.

What Agencies and Projects Are Eligible?

Many local government agencies are specifically authorized to use the small works roster process of RCW 39.04.155 in their enabling statutes. For instance:

Agencies that do not have specific public works statutes may also use a similar roster process, although they do not have to comply with the exact requirements of RCW 39.04.155.

Agencies that have specific public works statutes that do not reference RCW 39.04.155 may not use a roster.

Agency Rosters

Eligible agencies may create a single small works roster or multiple small works rosters for different specialties or categories of work. A roster may make distinctions between contractors based upon different geographic areas served by the contractor.

Shared Rosters

Multiple agencies may use the same roster to reduce operating costs and expand the pool of available contractors. This can be accomplished one of two ways:

  • Interlocal Agreements. A large city or county may make its roster available to other nearby agencies through an interlocal agreement. The agreement must clearly identify the lead entity, which is responsible for advertising and maintaining the roster. Any advertisements should include the names of all agencies using the roster at that time. (RCW 39.04.155(2)(b))
  • Roster Service Providers. Roster service providers are independent organizations, such as MRSC Rosters (read below), that maintain and advertise rosters.

MRSC Rosters

MRSC provides its own roster service for local governments across Washington, connecting hundreds of local governments to thousands of businesses for public works, as well as consulting services and purchases. To sign up or learn more, visit MRSC Rosters.

Roster Membership, Advertisement, and Maintenance

Agencies must publicly advertise the roster at least once per year in a newspaper of general circulation within the district, soliciting the names of eligible contractors. Agencies must add any responsible contractors at any time as long as the contractor submits a written request and, where required by law, is properly licensed or registered to do business in Washington.

Agencies may require prospective contractors to keep current records of any applicable licenses, certifications, registrations, bonding, insurance, or other appropriate matters on file with the appropriate state agency or local government as a condition of being placed on a roster.

Agencies should require contractors to update their information every year. To limit the amount of paperwork, agencies can request updated information every three or six months, sending the request to any contractors whose anniversary date fell within the previous three or six months.

At least once per year, the agency must post a list of all small works roster contracts awarded regardless of dollar value, including the date, the name of the contractor, the amount of the contract, a brief description of the type of work performed, and the location where the bid quotations for these contracts are available for public inspection (RCW 39.04.200).

Roster Procedures

Agencies must establish procedures for securing telephone, written, or electronic quotes for each roster, ensuring that a competitive price is established and that contracts will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.

Informal invitations to bid may be sent to all appropriate contractors in the appropriate roster category. The request must include an estimate of the scope and nature of the work to be performed, although detailed plans and specifications do not need to be included.

Alternatively, the agency may send invitations to bid to at least five contractors on the appropriate small works roster who have indicated the capability of performing the kind of work being contracted, in a way that will equitably distribute the opportunity. If the agency chooses this route and the project costs more than $250,000, the agency must also notify all other roster contractors that quotes are being sought by publishing a formal notice in a legal newspaper of general circulation, mailing notice to the contractors, or sending a notice by fax or other electronic means.

Sealed bids are not required, but agencies should document which contractors they solicited bids from and keep records of all informal bids received, not just those of the lowest bidders.

Bid guarantees are not discussed in RCW 39.04.155, so depending on how an agency’s statutes are written bid guarantees may not be required. For instance, we have concluded that bid guarantees are not required for city or county small works roster projects, because those statutes reference RCW 39.04.155 "in lieu of" (see RCW 35.23.352(4)) or "as an alternative to" (see RCW 36.32.250) their regular bidding procedures that include bid guarantees. Each agency will have to evaluate its roster authorization statutes to see how the statutes are worded.

The contract must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, and the contract is still subject to the normal performance and payment bond and prevailing wage requirements.

Local agencies are authorized to waive retainage for small works roster projects, thereby assuming liability for a contractor’s nonpayment of (1) laborers, mechanics, subcontractors, materialpersons, suppliers, and (2) taxes, increases, and penalties that may be due. However, the local agency has the right of recovery against the contractor, and recovery of unpaid wages and benefits are the first priority for actions filed against the contract.

For an overview of the general roster process from bid preparation to closeout, see MRSC's Small Works Project Checklist. [Note: We are in the process of updating this checklist to reflect the new requirements of ESSB 5418.]

Limited Public Works Process Under $50,000

For roster projects under $50,000, RCW 39.04.155(3) establishes an alternative limited public works process that agencies may use. The agency must solicit bids from at least three contractors on the roster, but it does not have to notify the remaining contractors. However, local agencies must equitably distribute opportunities for limited public works projects among contractors willing to perform in the geographic area of the work.

As with normal roster contracts, sealed bids are not required, but agencies should document which contractors they solicited bids from and keep records of all informal bids received, not just those of the lowest bidders.

Local agencies may use the limited public works process to solicit and award small works roster contracts to independently owned and operated microbusinesses (annual gross revenue under $1 million annually) and minibusinesses (annual gross revenue between $1 million and $3 million) as defined in RCW 39.26.010 that are registered contractors.

Bid guarantees are optional. The contract must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, and retainage and performance and payment bonds may be waived. Limited public works projects are still subject to prevailing wage requirements, but agencies may be able to contact L&I to obtain a combined intents/affidavits form under RCW 39.12.040(2).

Examples of Small Works Roster Documents

Below are examples of documents related to the small public works roster process. For more sample documents regarding rosters, purchasing, and contracting, see MRSC's Sample Document Library.

Note: We will be seeking more recent examples that incorporate the provisions of ESSB 5418. If you have examples to share, please email our librarian Gabrielle Nicas as

MRSC Rosters

  • MRSC Rosters - Shared small public works and consultant roster that all local agencies in Washington are eligible to join; includes sample resolution for public agencies

Other Roster Procedures

Application Forms

Interlocal Agreements

Roster Contracts

Last Modified: July 14, 2023