Questions about the water softener bid for the new Faribault County Law Enforcement Center surfaced again at last week’s county board meeting.
Garlick’s Water Conditioning of Blue Earth was awarded the contract on Sept. 19, with a bid of $13,500 — $500 higher than the lowest bid.
Their bid of $13,500 was $500 higher than the lowest one.
A letter to the editor in the Faribault County Register from the low bidder, Tonna Mechanical Co. of Byron, indicated they felt the Garlick’s bid did not fully meet the specs outlined in the request for bids.Tuesday, Jeremy Coxworth of Coxworth Water Conditioning of Blue Earth told the commissioners that neither Garlick or Tonna’s bids met the specs, but says his did.
“I was penalized because I followed the spec sheet, while my competitors did not,” Coxworth says.
He told the board that if he had bid a system similar to the one they accepted, it would have been at $10,000 and the county could have saved $3,500.
“Their systems show a larger drop in water pressure, and it could cause a problem with toilets flushing on the second floor,” Coxworth says.
County Auditor John Thompson says the board was told the bids which were considered all met the specs.
“It is a concern, we want the bidder to meet the specs and the system to work,” he says.
Board chairman Barb Steier agreed, and said the system will have to work or it will be taken out.
“That is their (Garlick’s) burden, not ours,” Commissioner Tom Warmka added. “They will have to make it work.”
“I don’t like this, having the third place bidder come and say why he should be the first place bidder,” Warmka says.
Board members questioned why this problem arose in the first place.
Thompson suggested the best solution may be to have Construction Manager Mike Kearns of Construction Analysis and Management (CAM) come to the next meeting and explain how the bids were determined to meet the specs. The board agreed.
“Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves here,” Commissioner Tom Loveall says. “We need to double check the facts first.”
Transit Service questioned
Coxworth was not the only local businessman at Tuesday’s meeting with a complaint for the board.
Benny Espeland of Espeland Van Service of Winnebago told the board he may have to pull out of the county.
“I think you are going to lose another independent business in this county,” he told the board. “I am to the point of taking my vans off the road.”
Espeland says the Prairie Express Transit Service, operated by the county, is one of many reasons his business is on the decline.
His complaint centered on the bus service not just operating a curb-to-curb service, but going into homes and medical centers to assist riders.
“That is a service we do,” Espeland says. “When the bus service started they were not going to go into medical facilities.”
Commissioner Loveall says the transit sub-committee has discussed the matter and agrees they need to run a curb-to-curb service only.
“Our drivers are just human and sometimes want to help people,” he says. “However there is a liability question here as well.”
Espeland says the low fares charged by the bus service also hurt his business. Loveall responded that those rates are being adjusted.
“I used to run 50 vehicles in the area,” Espeland says. “Now we are running 29 and 15 are sitting idle.”
Commissioners commented they did not want to see any business leave the county, but are committed to the public transit system.