The low bidder of a water line project leading to a new Berry Plastics facility is angry that the Douglas County Commission passed over its bid.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, Dean Banks, who owns the Holton-based Banks Construction company with his father, Wayne Banks, asked the County Commission to reconsider its decision to pick the second-lowest bidder.
On the advice of the engineering firm Bartlett and West, the County Commission recommended a week ago to go with the Wathena-based firm M Con LLC, which bid $91,550. Banks Construction’s bid was nearly $7,500 lower at $84,129.
The county budgeted for the water line project to cost $130,000, and the money is part of the $431,000 incentives package the county provided Berry Plastics to build a new 675,000-square-foot warehouse on the north side of Farmers Turnpike. The warehouse is expected to provide about a dozen new jobs.
While the County Commission is paying for the project, Rural Water District No. 6 is the one overseeing the water line.
At the March 28 meeting, the commission agreed to go with M Con on the condition that the water district changed its previous decision to go with the lowest bidder and accept the second-lowest bidder. The water district held a special meeting later in the week and voted to reverse its decision and accept the second bidder.
“Our recommendation was to take the second-lowest bid,” Commissioner Jim Flory told Banks on Wednesday, but noted later that “if the district decided to stay with your bid, we would also support that.”
At the March 28 board meeting, County Administrator Craig Weinaug told the commission that the engineering firm had more “comfort” in the second-lowest bidder’s ability “to get the job done in timely fashion and done well.”
He also said the water district indicated it would have gone with the second-lowest bid if it had known it was the preference of Berry Plastics.
“We do need to make a decision,” Weinaug said that night. “The completion of the line is a critical path to completing the whole project.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Dean Banks said the engineering firm that recommended M Con over them had collected two questionable references that reflected poorly on the company. One of the references had a conflict of interest and the other reference wasn’t involved in the construction project. None of those poor references provided documentation, Banks said.
Banks said he could provide plenty of references from entities they worked for that were happy with the company.
“It’s costing us a $84,000 job right now, and we haven’t bid any other work,” Banks said.
After the meeting, Banks said he is considering suing the water district and engineering firm over the bidding process.