It isn’t easy to serve on a City Council.
There are many factors that go into each decision and each of those factors contribute to certain ramifications in the future.
On Monday night, the Augusta governing body was faced with a bid that should have been great news for the city. Instead, it incited bickering and hard feelings.
Engineers had estimated that the relocation of Dike Road as part of the new levee construction project would cost more than $514,000. The low bid from Mies Construction in Wichita came in at just over $321,000. Unfortunately for a local company, Alan’s Excavating, also came in at just over $321,000. The local bid was less than $500 higher than the low bid.
“Someone in our hometown is getting overlooked for less than $500,” Councilor Matt Malone said. “To me, that sends a bad message.”
Councilor Matt Childers said in his line of work, he has encountered governing agencies that use a local preference clause and that can affect his willingness to bid on those projects because he knows his profit margin would be affected.
Councilor Sue Jones pointed out that the governing body was not required to take the low bid.
Interim City Manager Josh Shaw said the council did have the flexibility to take whichever bid they preferred legally, but he had concerns about making that decision in this case.
Because this project is a city project submitted to the U.S. Corps of Engineers for reimbursement, Shaw said he was concerned that not accepting the low bid could jeopardize the city’s chance to have this project funded by the federal government.
Another component of the project includes a portion of the project that is funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation. Because the bid was in separate sections, even though the Alan’s Excavating bid was within $500 overall, the KDOT portion was about $12,000 higher. It was also unclear as to whether KDOT would be willing to pay the higher amount when a lower bid with a lower share for them was received.
“For me, it is about the precedent we set,” said Mayor Kristey Williams. “I want our projects to go to local contractors but we need integrity in the bidding process.”
Malone asked why the council didn’t use the same process when choosing an architect earlier in the night.
“Why did we give Bill Morris $50,000 for the architecture of the depot project without any bids,” Malone asked.
Shaw pointed out that the original grant included paying Morris that exact amount to do the work on the depot project and no one on the council questioned his participation or the need to bid the project out when it was approved.
Page 2 of 2 - The motion to approved Mies Construction passed 5-2 with Jones and Malone voting no. Jones and Malone both asked that the city staff draft a local preference policy that could allow the council to choose a local bidder in close bids in the future.