by Sandy Kaczmarski
ELBURN—The Elburn Committee of the Whole on Monday tabled a recommendation to award a public works contract to the lowest bidder after objections from a labor management organization and questions from the board on the vast difference in the bids.
“There’s too much disparity (in the bid amounts),” Trustee Jeff Walter said. “It sends a red flag.”
The Public Works Department went out for bids for work needed on Well No. 3 that includes pulling the existing pump and motor, bailing the well and testing and chlorination of the well. An alternate bid included replacing the pump or rebuilding the motor, depending on the amount of deterioration workers find.
Rempe-Sharpe & Associates, Inc., the Geneva consulting firm that helped coordinate the bids and will monitor the project, estimated the project would cost $80,660, and $44,580 for the alternate bid. After reviewing the bids, the firm recommended awarding the contract to Municipal Well & Pump, a Wisconsin company it has worked with before, saying it found no reason not to recommend them.
Municipal bid $43,364.88 for the job with $26,600 for the alternate work. Water Well Solutions of Elburn bid $49,809 and $47,339 for the alternate. Layne Christensen Co. of Kansas bid $53,879 with $64,655 for the alternate. Representatives from all three bidders were at the meeting.
But Michael Lingl, a field supervisor for Indiana/Illinois/Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, did find a reason to disagree with that recommendation. Lingl handed each of the trustees a packet containing letters from recent decisions reportedly made by other area municipalities, showing contracts went to the second lowest bidder instead of to Municipal, which came in as the lowest.
Lingl also referred to letters of complaint that allegedly were filed against Municipal for failure to pay prevailing wages in 2006 and 2008, saying the company is under investigation by the Department of Labor.
“We’re contending there’s a non-responsible bidder among the people (bidding),” Lingl said.
Municipal’s project manager, Craig Allen, responded to the allegations, saying the answers to all of the questions pertaining to any violation issues already were sent to Rempe-Sharpe.
Mayor Dave Anderson said he would much rather work with a local business such as Water Well Solutions, but saving money has to be considered.
“We’re spending taxpayer dollars,” Anderson said. “We are responsible for every penny of taxpayer dollars that come to us.
“I would love to do it here in town, but I can’t advocate that.”
With that, Anderson called for a motion to put the recommendation on the next Village Board consent agenda to award the bid to Municipal as the low bidder. But Walter again questioned the disparity in the figures.
“I’m still not getting my head around some of these figures,” Walter said. “Some of these numbers are way out of line for me.”
Trustee Bill Grabarek agreed, and said with the dispute presented to the board, no one has had a chance to examine the information.
“I sure don’t want to spend taxpayer money until I get my head wrapped around what is an objection on what was the low bid,” he said.
With that, the board voted to put the item on the agenda at the next Village Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 7, for further discussion and a final decision, so work can begin without any further delay.