Feds review equipment suppliers complaint
By Bert Lehman
City Administrator Chuck Kell told the city council at a special meeting Oct. 19 that the bidding process for the Clintonville Wastewater Treatment Plant construction project was being challenged.
“There was a challenge to the bidding process filed with the federal government, USDA, in terms of one component of the bid,” Kell told the council. “We are waiting for the USDA review of that and their direction of what should be done.”
The challenge to the bid process was filed by Envirodyne of Champ Hill, Pennsylvania, regarding equipment for the oxidation ditch aeration system, Kell said.
“They were allowed to bid and did submit a bid, however our bid specifications indicated that equipment and the associated bid would be based on a 20 year present worth analysis,” Kell told the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette via email Monday, Oct. 24. “In this particular case even though their equipment was $11,000 less in total cost based on the bid amounts, the 20 year present worth operating cost of the Envirodyne equipment was $260,000 higher than the competitor’s equipment so we chose to go with the bid from Evoqua even though it was $11,000 higher.”
At the special council meeting, Kell told the council, “I guess we had known that this company was not happy with the decision that was made, that their bid would not be accepted. They were told that up front. We weren’t aware they were going to file a complaint with the federal government.”
Kell said he was told that if the council proceeded with the project without USDA’s review and approval, the city would be jeopardizing the funds from USDA.
The city received one bid for the wastewater treatment plant construction, Kell said. That bid was from Miron Construction in the amount of just over $7.3 million. The total bid was about $50,000 less than the city’s engineers estimated it would be for the plant building.
Kell said there were two contractors that he thought would be active in bidding on the project, but one of the contractors at the pre-bid meeting did not submit a bid.
“In past projects there has been another contractor who would typically bid on a wastewater treatment plant but they’ve been getting beat out by Miron so frequently that I think they just decided it wasn’t worth their time to do it,” Kell said.
Regarding the bid from Miron, Kell said city staff and engineers feel that bid is “solid.”
“Once we get the clearance from USDA, we’ll be recommending moving forward with the approval of that bid,” Kell said.
Kell added the city shouldn’t move forward until it has the USDA approval in writing.
“To me this is too touchy and I’ve had some concerns with clarity of direction, so I’m going to ask them formally for at least an email on it,” Kell said.
As of Monday, Oct. 24, Kell told the Tribune-Gazette that USDA had verbally approved the bid process. He was waiting for written confirmation.
The bids for alternatives that could be included in the project were not as favorable. These alternatives mostly included lift station upgrades.
Kell said the city engineers had estimated that those bids should come in around $400,000, but the bids actually came in at $868,108.
“When we add the bid on the treatment plant and all the engineering costs, the legal costs, and all the different things we had to do here, we have about $417,500 less to address alternates.”
In addition to having that amount less for alternates, the city had hoped the project would come in under budget so the excess funds could be used to address sewer projects for the second phase of the Main Street reconstruction scheduled for next summer.
“So we’re not only not going to be able to address Main Street,” Kell said, “but we’re not going to be able to address all the alternates, and we’ll have to decide what to do with those.”
Kell said one alternative is to move forward with the wastewater treatment plant and see how much money is actually needed for that project. Then, if there is money left over, the city could accept some of the bids for alternates at a later date.
Another solution would be to rebid the alternates. Kell said he preferred this solution.
“It almost appears to us that the contractor maybe didn’t give enough time to spend on the costing of those and hastily put the numbers together,” Kell said.
Kell added that if the alternates were put out for bid again some could be done by local contractors.
Because USDA has done it in the past, Kell said he was also going to contact USDA to see if it would provide more funds for the overall project. Even if USDA decided to provide more funds, Kell said he wasn’t sure if it would be in the form of loans, grants or a combination of both.