If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? People debate that. Some say yes and some say no. Now if the Kewaunee Common Council votes on a $200k project to add a one block street in the town, does the Council’s vote matter any more than the tree falling in the woods? I would like to think so, but I have reason to take the other side.
You see, we are being asked to vote tonight on the winning bidder of the Scott Street construction project. And please understand that Kewaunee’s purchasing policy for a project this expensive requires Council approval. The Council has been told that the only acceptable bid is a company called Advance Construction out of Green Bay. They are not the low bidder, or even the second lowest bidder. This is a relatively small job—it’s easy and straight forward. But they are being recommended by the person who just left the city. And here is the kicker— before the Council votes tonight, the ex-Administrator already called the bidders and told them who was awarded the contract. That’s right—we did not vote. We did not even know the bidding was finished until the agenda and packet came out on Thursday.
To satisfy the requirements for a bid, the council was given the names of four construction companies who submitted bids. Three companies had already been disqualified because they did not provide an “equipment list”. All the companies were long-term companies in good standing who have worked on numerous projects in the county. Two were from Green Bay, one was from DePere and the last was Kruczek—out on Hwy 29 just before 43. I’m not in construction—and I didn’t know what an “equipment list” was, or if it was even important until today. So I made some calls (of course I did) and was able to talk to people from companies who had submitted the bids. They too, did not know why an equipment list would be required. Everyone I talked to said that they had far more equipment on hand than they would need for a small project. And their bid included all the costs for the necessary equipment for the project. The equipment list would be for services above and beyond the scope of the project. And neither of them had ever heard of an equipment list being required for a bidding estimate.
Now our administrator could have handled this in a few ways. The administrator could have warned the companies that this odd request was a requirement. He could have told the companies that their bid was short an equipment list that was required to get the project. He could have asked why they did not include an equipment list. But he did not mention it at all. Instead, he called the companies before the Council even voted and told them they were disqualified because their bid did not contain an equipment list. One guy, whose family had been in the business for 50 years was quite hot. He said, “This is irregular—in two decades I have never seen this before!”
This bothers me in a few different ways. First, I’m pretty certain these people no longer trust the bidding process of the City of Kewaunee. I also wonder why the outgoing administrator would call these people before the Council even voted to award a bid and disqualify others. And most of all, I want to know what shenanigans have been going on with our city’s other contracts.
Thanks for listening,