Contractor calls foul when low bid rejected
BENSON -- A Montevideo contractor is calling foul after the Swift County Board of Commissioners did not award his company's low bid for the demolition of three tax-forfeited structures in Appleton.
BENSON - A Montevideo contractor is calling foul after the Swift County Board of Commissioners did not award his company's low bid for the demolition of three tax-forfeited structures in Appleton.
The commissioners awarded the contract on Sept. 4 to the high bidder, T & K Excavating of Benson. They rescinded that action Sept. 18 after hearing from Dennis Larson, owner of MAAC Inc., the other bidder on the project.
Larson pointed out that his bid of $177,112 was about $40,000, or 22 percent, lower than the $217,080 bid by T & K Excavating.
At the Oct. 16 meeting, the Swift County Board voted unanimously to rebid the project. The decision came after County Attorney Danielle Olson recommended the board reject the prior bids, and revise and further define the scope of work for the project.
The unanimous vote to rebid the project came as part of a motion approving the consent agenda for the day's meeting. The commissioners commented in a brief discussion on the matter that they had covered all of Larson's concerns at a prior meeting with the two contractors.
Larson disputes that claim. He said the commissioners should have awarded the contract to his firm as the low bidder and for meeting all of the specifications in the request for bids. He said the commissioners are unfairly favoring his competitor.
"They made a mockery of the bidding system,'' Larson said.
A call to T & K Excavating was not returned to the West Central Tribune.
Larson has raised his concerns about the situation to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson. Larson said Peterson assigned a staff person to look into laws governing the bidding process. Larson's attorney sent the commissioners a letter encouraging them to award the MAAC bid prior to the Oct. 16 meeting.
The Swift County News and Appleton Press reported on the decisions in September to award and subsequently rescind the T & K Excavating bid. The papers reported that the commissioners said that T & K Excavating was a local firm paying taxes in the county, and that its bid was more complete.
Larson told the commissioners that his firm is actually located in closer proximity to the Appleton work site, and that he pays taxes on property he owns in Swift County as well.
Larson also told the commissioners that the claim the T & K Excavating bid was more complete is "false." He said the Benson firm did not list a subcontractor for removing asbestos in the buildings. MAAC checked the bid form as a licensed contractor prepared to remove it, he said.
Larson also called it unfair that T & K Excavating submitted a separate piece of paper with its bid offering the county the possibility of deducting $24,300 from its bid cost if the scope of work was reduced to allow it to leave a wall and footings in place. The bid form called for removing the foundation to a depth of four feet, and did not offer an option for leaving a wall and footing, he said.
But even taking the possible deduction into account, the MAAC bid would still be the lower of the two. The Montevideo firm has performed excavating and asbestos removal at hundreds of projects and is well-known and respected for the quality of its work, Larson told the commissioners.
Contacted by the West Central Tribune about the issue, Commissioner Pete Peterson said board members have agreed to refer any questions to the audio of their meeting at which they called for rebidding the project.
The new scope of work called for in the new bid package requires bidders to name any subcontractors that may be involved in the project and list the licenses and permits they hold, according to Kelsey Baker, county administrator.
The new call for bids requires that bids be received by the end of the month for a Nov. 1 bid opening and possible awarding at the Nov. 6 board meeting.
Larson said he is now at an unfair, competitive disadvantage. His competitor knows his bid, as do other firms, which could undercut the amount, he said. Larson said his firm is not the only loser. The real loser is the county's taxpayers, he said.