St. Clair’s aldermen almost decided to push the proceed button on Tuesday and allow City Administrator Rick Childers to purchase a backup generator that would allow city hall to remain operational during an emergency.
At the last minute, however, the board opted to get a little bit more information on the company that submitted the best bid, making sure its low price wasn’t one of those “too good to be true” offers.
Childers has been researching generators for months after the board of aldermen approved money for one in the city’s 2013 budget. City officials placed the generator near the top of their priority list a year ago, and $67,500 was placed in the budget for that purpose.
Currently, if severe weather or some kind of natural disaster would knock out power in St. Clair, including city hall, there is no backup power source. The outage also would affect the police department since it is located in the same building.
Periodically throughout the year, Childers has updated board members on his generator progress. One of the stipulations he required of vendors in seeking bids was that the unit be installed as a “turn-key” operation, meaning it would be ready to use immediately.
On Tuesday, the aldermen reviewed three bids for a natural gas generator and all the hardware and installation to go with it. The prices ranged from $142,508 to $85,990, a difference of $56,518.
The low bid was submitted by Brda Electric Inc. of Fenton.
“This has been a fairly long process,” Childers said during the board’s Tuesday meeting in city hall. “We’ve narrowed it down to three firms.”
The other two companies that submitted bids were Benson Electric Co. Inc of St. Louis ($142,508) and Streib Electric Co. of St. Louis ($113,385).
“It appears from our review and with meeting with all three firms that all three come close to providing all elements of our bid specifications,” Childers said. “My recommendation is to accept the Brda bid.”
Childers reminded the aldermen on Tuesday that $67,500 was budgeted for a generator, and that amount was based on guesswork from a 6- to 7-year-old proposal that was not accepted.
“In my opinion, this is one of those projects that if you don’t do it, you just won’t do it,” he said. “And it’s one of those projects that you may have to spend $85,000 and never have to use it. But, if you have to use it once, it’s well worth it.”
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate asked if Brda was including everything the city is asking for because its bid “is a big price difference.”
Childers responded by agreeing that the bid price range was wide, but it may be based “by who’s hungriest right now.”
“Instructions were given to all of them that we want this turn key,” he said, adding that he can’t guarantee there will be no additional costs.
“I’m not a generator expert,” he said.
Brda’s bid includes material and labor. The generator is manufactured by Kohler and includes a one-year limited warranty.
The discussion then led to references for the company as Mayor Ron Blum asked if the city had received them from Brda.
Tate then said that, “I would really like to see those references before we make a decision.”
Other aldermen agreed.
Childers said he would request them.
The board decided to discuss the matter again at 6 p.m. on Monday when it conducts its next budget workshop.
In February and March, Childers forwarded initial information he had received to board members on pricing options for both gas and diesel units.
At that time, Blum said his option would be to purchase a gas generator because if needed it can be switched to propane. To use a diesel generator, fuel would have to be kept on site, he said.
“I think natural gas is the preferred route to go,” he said.
It is the city’s hope to accept a bid so the generator can be operational by the end of the year.