How To Become A Gate Attendant and/or Custodian For The Corps Of Engineers
Written by Sharon
(10-27-09) Please Note: Upon talking to a person that just recently read this and is trying to make a bid, has brought to my attention that there are going to be changes in 2010. I have updated what I know and will updates and more information comes my way.
Okay now you have made the big step; You've retired from your job and you think it would be fun to work in one of those little booths at a Corps of Engineer Campground. Or maybe you don't mind cleaning toilets or picking up trash on the beach. Well you just can't walk up into a Corps of Engineer Headquarters and say: "I want to fill out an application to become a Gate attendant and/or Custodian". It's not really that simple, unfortunately. but maybe these few little steps will help you out. And I assure you, The Corps are always looking for new Gate Attendants and/or Custodians. Many are up there in age and it maybe time for a fresh new face in the Gate House to greet the campers.
I guess the first thing that I would suggest to you is to think about how serious you are about becoming a Gate Attendant and/or Custosdian for the Corps of Engineers. Depending on the location and such, contracts can be anywhere from 3-4 months to all the up to one year. Each contract can be for one year to three year terms. Each lake operates totally different; even though they maybe out of the same district. All bid packets are done out of the district office and they make the final decision as to who gets the bid.
I would then tell you to purchase the book called "Camping With The Corps Of Engineer" published by Cottage Pub. this book will be very helpful to you when you decide when it's time for bidding. About every 2-3 years a new and updated edition is published. Best placed to find the book is go to: www.cottagepub.com and order the book.
Another place to "snoop" around in is: www.recreation.gov This has the list of all the Corps parks that are on the Reservation system. Now mind you, there are parks out there that are not on the reserve system, but you can find out more about campgrounds at this great web page of the Corps of Engineer: http://www.usace.army.mil/Locations.aspx This web page is a colorful map of the United States with Divisions. Districts are separated by the Divisions and Lakes are sererated by Districts. Take your cursor over each state and the District name will appear.
Most all the Gate Attendants and/or Custodian are done by placing a bid, with the lowest bid usually being the one considered. In other words, you have to submit a bid package back to them (the district) as to how much your time is worth for working, but I will get into that a little later on down the page.
The reason that I put the and/or between Gate Attendant & Custodian is because some contracts may require that you do both running the gate house and cleaning up the park. These are usually generated towards smaller moderately used to slower parks. Believe it or not some folks would rather just be the custodian because there hours are a little more flexible compared to the Gate Attendants.
Some factors to consider before getting serious:
- All contracts require two people. During peak season and High volume times, it will take two people to run the booth. It will take two people to do the cleaning. The Corps does frown on more than you and one other person.
- You DO NOT need to be 55 or older to bid. However you do need to be over 18 years of age. No kids are allowed in the Booth! In fact the only person(s) allowed inside the gate house is you, and the person you have named to help you (whether it's your spouse, significant other or grown child) and the park rangers. Some booths do have where the customers can go inside, then in which case that means no one is allowed behind the counter.
- Pets are okay, but again, not allowed in the gate house and you must follow the rules. Your contract terms explains all that.
- Your family is very welcome to come and visit you; however if staying in another camper, then they must get a campsite.
- All contracts are written differentely. You maybe the sole contractor that works the park or you may be working with a co-worker. Again this will be specified in your contract.
Okay now you are serious and you really want to do this. Here's How:
STEP ONE: You must register with Dunns & Bradstreet. Two ways of doing this is either calling their toll free number or going to their web page and filling out the application. I would suggest doing it via the Internet now a days.
Most Gate Attendants and/or Custodians just use their own names or you can be creative if you wish. Just remember to keep it simple, for the Govement don't care what you name your business as long as you are register.
- online: www.dnb.com
- 1-888-814-1435 (Mon-Fri 8:00am-8:00pm est)
when registering, you will be asked as what your business is going to do. To make it easy for them to find the "SIC" that most specific for the Corps of Engineer you need to tell them the code numbers:
Gate Attendant the SIC# is:7033
Janitorial/Custodian maintenance and janitorial the NAICS code is 561720
I highly recommend submitting for both Gate Attendant and the Custodian. Reason for this is some contracts are a combination where you running the booth and cleaning. This way this keeps you covered.
Once you receive your DUNNS number, you will have to wait about 2-3 days before you can go to the next step.
Once you have register with Dunns & Bradstreet you shouldn't need to ever do anything again. However if ever you move or change your phone number, make sure that you update your information. Your Dunn's information has to always match your CCR information.
STEP TWO: Once you received your Dunn's number now it's time to register with the CCR (Central Contracting Restistration). This is a little more complex and very detailed information that is required. The only way you can register with them is online at: www.ccr.gov
There is an online access help. This is really helpful and will give you step by step instructions. or you can call toll free 24 hours and get help, the help desk is really great in helping you out. The toll free number is: 866 606 8220
Once you are done registering with CCR, I highly recommend either copy and paste and putting on a disc or print the information and keep it in a very secure place. You will need to update CCR every year and will need the info in order to access your account. If ever anything should change, email address, phone number, address, banks, etc. Make sure you go in asap and make the necessary changes-this is very, very important!
It was brought to my attention and the following link was emailed to me by someone that is trying to bid. But coming in 2010 you will now need to be finger printed and a background check will be required. I'm not sure yet if this will be done on ALL gate attendants or if just certain areas will require this. but here is the web page: http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/ct/ebs/asp/pac/parkattendant.asp
STEP THREE: Okay, you are now all set and ready to bid. This is where the book comes in handy. You can look at varies areas to see what might interest you. You may decide to just stay in your own neck of the woods (which many do), or you might want to adventure to a place you never have been or maybe you once visited a Corp park and thought that someday you would like to run it. Either way, I would suggest to you to contact the Lake (called Project Headquarters) and ask for the ranger that is in charge of the Gate Attendants and/or Custodian and talked with that person. They can tell you which contracts maybe coming up for bid in the future. If you are not too far away from a location of interest, go visit the lake and campgrounds.
Either way you do it, make sure you research the area of the lake and campground that you are interested in bidding in. What you are looking for is:
- How many campsites are there
- Is it a very busy park for camping and/or day-use
- Hours required of working in the booth
- Do you have to run the booth AND clean bathrooms
- If cleaning only: How many bathrooms is there, how big is the day-use and if any Picnic Shelters to clean
- How far from nearby town and/or Wal-Mart
All bid packets generally come out anywhere from Nov all the way to Feb with maybe a few exceptions being in March. Winter contracts usually are posted sometime around June-Aug.
Workamper News puts out a great article on Corps of Engineers in the fall issue (I believe it's the Sept-Oct issue). Some of the lakes will post upcoming positions for the following year camping season. But mind you, not all of them are posted in the magazine. But the magazine has great info so well worth it.
Most generally bid packets are posted on the web page. Leave it up to our Government, and naturally they did have to make it a bit harder to get these bid packets. But most park rangers that are in charge of the contractors understands the complications and they try their best to simplify it for us. When talking to the ranger that is in charge, ask him/her if they would mail you the bid packet. If they won't, they most generally will give you the web page to where you can download the contracts. Also ask if they know when the bids will be posted.
It's not required but very helpful if you have some computer knowledge. You don't have to be a typist (trust me, I have seen many, many one finger typist who can actually type faster than a normal typist!) or a computer savy. About 90% of campgrounds are all on the computer system and web base now. There are a few of your smaller campgrounds that are still done the old fashion way; paper and pen.
STEP FOUR: Now that you know how to get the bid packet and you have received one. Don't let it scare you away when you receive this HUGE package! When fingering through it, and you see all this mumble-jumble stuff and thinking: "What in the world did I just get myself into?!?!" I don't know why (again, it's the Government), but they put a lot of "stuff" that don't matter to us in it. The only thing you need to be concerned with is reading what requirements the District has and what requirement (called "Scope Of Work) that the Project Lake has.
Here is a general idea of what you need to return:
- You will need to return a signed copy of the contract itself
- What your price for bidding
- Some may ask if you have any experience and if so when or where or if you have any computer knowledge
- You will need also need to fill out a section of that legal mumble jumble. It most generally starts with wanting your TPIN Number; then you will check mark whether you are/are not small business concer, woman own, etc.
You can bid on more than one park and/or lake in the same district. In fact they highly suggest that you put in for more than one. But remember, you will only be awarded just one. You can also put bids in other districts, even though you maybe waiting to hear from another. It is also suggested that you should put bids in at different districts as well. Just remember you can only work at one. So if you are awarded a contract at one District, and another one calls you, you need to tell them that you have been already awarded a contract and that you appreciate the phone call. 7
How much should you bid for? Usually in the "Scope of Work" it will either state what the last successful bid was or what the highest bid they will accept for that particular park. Again, I suggest contacing the ranger in charge and ask if that is the highest bid being accepted or what.
When making that bid a few things you want to keep in mind:
How experience are you on the computer or have you done the work before? Remember you are getting FREE electric, water and sewer How bad do you really want that contract or park?
Whenever I help someone in bidding, and I know they haven't done it before and want to get their foot in the door, I will tell them to keep their bid under the price range. It gives you a little better of a chance of getting the contract.
If you have any questions about your bid package, don't ever hestitate to contact the contracting person in that District. Unless it's a question about the campground itself, it's better to contact the District, they will be able to answer any of your questions better than a ranger. And if you are not sure what you should mail in, again call the District, they are very helpful to you. You will find their phone number and the contracting person usually on the contract page that you need to sign.
I suggest mailing the bid package with a "Delivery Confirmation". That way you know that the package got to the District okay.
If you are awarded a bid, you will be contacted usually by the ranger in charge. if you did not, they will not call you at all. Generally you should know with-in 30 days after bid closing; give or take a week or two. It don't hurt to contact the ranger in charge (not district), and ask them if they have made their decision or if they know when they will. If we are really interested in a campground, then we try our best to make contact with that ranger that is in charge (also called POC=Point of Contact).
STEP FIVE: Got that phone call and you just been awarded a contract-YEAH!! Good for you. One more step to go. Once you have been awarded a contract, you CANNOT start on your first official working day without a Bond. You are required before starting your first day to have a "Surety Bond". If you are working in your general hometown area, you should be able to call your insurance company and ask them if they can bond you. If you will be working out of your hometown area. Then contact the Ranger in charge and ask them if they know the Insurance Company that other attendants on the lake are using. Most of them will either have a name or even a phone number for you. I have yet to meet a park ranger that will not help you locate a Bonding Insurance Agent; They know how important this is to have.
A bond has to be whatever was written in your contract terms. Most generally a bond runs about $100.00. The only person required to be bonded is the person that the contract name is in. Word of caution: Some lakes will try to get both you and your "helper" to be bonded, before going and doing this, contact District first and go by what they tell you for the bonding.
Well I hope this has helped you. I know Brian and I have enjoy being Gate Attendants and look forward to keep doing it. I know it may sound a little scary at first, but where else can you go and meet great people. Most of our campers are just fantastic to us. We have met a lot of interesting people this way. It's an experience you won't forget soon, that is for sure!