After a lengthy discussion that included a five-minute executive session, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen on Monday decided not to accept a low bid for brush clearing because it was turned in about a half-hour late.
The decision means an ordinance that was scheduled for approval earlier this week will be redrafted to include the name of the official low bidder and will be considered next month.
The issue came up when Mayor Ron Blum prepared to introduce Bill No. 2014-13, which would have authorized him to enter into a tree and brush removal agreement with area contractor Jerry Landing. The city requested bids for the service to clear debris along the east and west main sewer trunk lines as additional improvements continue to be made to the wastewater system.
Four bids were received by the deadline, and they were taken to the city’s wastewater treatment plant for opening and review. Before the bids were opened there, Landing brought a fifth bid to city hall 28 minutes after the deadline had passed.
When it was opened, it was revealed that Landing’s bid was significantly lower than the others.
City Administrator Rick Childers earlier had told The Missourian in relation to the ordinance accepting Landing’s bid that “the bottom line is this saves taxpayers a lot of money.” He also clarified to the newspaper as well as to the aldermen and others in attendance on Monday that there was “no way” the bid process was compromised and that Landing could not have known the amount of the other bids received by the deadline.
“I have no objection to strictly adhering to procedure,” Childers said during the meeting. “I’m a process guy.
“The bids were picked up at city hall and were taken to the wastewater treatment plant. The (other) bids were not opened by the time Jerry Landing brought his to city hall. There was no way any of the bidders had any type of an unfair advantage.
“I’m in favor of following the process,” he said. “But I’m not sure I believe it enough to spend an additional $15,000 of taxpayer money.”
Landing’s total bid was $4,800. The next lowest bid, submitted by Jay Rice, was for $19,600.
Other bids were $29,300, $32,000 and $39,500.
The bulk of the discussion centered on whether to accept Landing’s bid and save the city the money or to follow the specified protocol on the request for proposal notice and accept Rice’s bid because it was the lowest received by the official posted deadline.
“The bids were opened in accordance to the procedure, and the low bidder was Jay Rice,” Blum said. “About 30 minutes later, Jerry Landing approached city hall and his bid was significantly less. ... My perspective is that we need to follow procedures and give the bid to the lowest bidder.”
Blum said he expects to be criticized for his opinion on the matter because of the additional money it will cost the city.
“The problem lies in not following procedures,” the mayor said. “How can we expect people to follow procedures if we don’t follow our own?”
Blum said he believes Childers was “looking out for the taxpayers” by putting together the ordinance that accepted Landing’s bid. He also said the city has worked with both contractors in the past and has good relationships with each.
“I just believe it’s unfair to the rest of the bidders,” he said.
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate asked about the city’s legal standpoint if the board decided to go with Landing’s bid.
City Attorney Kurt Voss responded by suggesting the meeting move into an executive session so his opinion can be given and discussed.
The motion was made to go into executive session at 7:20 p.m. The open meeting reconvened at 7:25 p.m.
Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn abstained from the executive session because of a “relationship” she said she has with one of the bidders.
When the open meeting reconvened, Ward 2 Alderman Glenn Richards spoke first.
“A rule is a rule,” he said.
Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs said he agreed.
Voss said since the ordinance never was introduced, it can die as currently written.
“I’d authorize the administration to come back at the next meeting with an ordinance with the other (low) bid,” he said.
The request for proposals called for one-time brush and tree clearing services along specified pipeline alignments located within the city’s sanitary sewer collection system.
Two separate proposals actually were requested — one to clear the debris along the east trunk line and the other to do the same along the west line.
The city could have selected separate bids for each job.
Landing’s bids were $2,200 and $2,600. Rice’s were $10,400 and $9,200.
The deadline for the sealed proposals to be submitted was 9 a.m. on March 12.