Low bid accepted in plant filter project

By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE– An engineering company that raised concerns with a low bid will perform the first of a three-phase federally-mandated fabric filter project for Wyandotte Municipal Services’ power plant after a narrow council vote Monday.

Minneapolis-based Barr Engineering visited the city’s council meeting Monday to explain their $12,900 bid for the phase, which includes identifying and helping to choose supply vendors. Their bid, brought before the council Sept. 26, was more than $50,000 lower than the second lower bidders, Black & Veach Corp. and SEGA Engineering and Technical Services, both of Kansas, each of which bid $68,750, and more than $150,000 lower than highest bidder Exothermic Engineering, LLC., of Missouri, which bid $173,372.

Councilors held the approval of the low bid in abeyance pending a visit with Barr Engineering at that meeting when concerns were raised that the company may not fully understand the scope of work, or may build specifications into the first phase that no other company could fill when later phases went to bid.

Monday Barr Vice President John Lee responded to the concerns, saying the low bid was a “conscious decision” to preserve a longstanding relationship with and secure future projects from
WMS.

He said the bid was also an attempt to underbid Black and Veach, with whom WMS also has worked on numerous projects.

“I would imagine the difference is not usual,” Lee said. “We really wanted this work and we didn’t want Black and Veach to come in and displace us. We made a conscious decision to price this very competitively.”

Concerns were also raised that WMS did not submit a contract from Barr Engineering to the council for review, a practice WMS Commissioner Michael Sadowski said was never in place in the past.

Councilman Todd Browning replied that past practices will not continue in light of a $1.8 million budget shortfall.

“With all due respect, we’ve never faced a budget like we’re facing now,” Browning said. “We’re not going to continue to do things the way we have been doing them.”

Some councilors also raised questions about why Barr was involved in writing the specifications for the bid when they were also involved in bidding on it. WMS Assistant General Manager James French said that other bidders were also involved in reviewing the scope of work for the bid project.

After debate, the approval to hire Barr for the project, which is mandated by a recent consent decree between the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after it was discovered that the plant’s Boiler 7 had violated the Clean Air Act, passed 4-3 with Mayor Joseph Peterson providing the tie-breaking “yes” vote. Councilors Leonard Sabuda, Todd Browning and Daniel Galeski dissented.

“More power to them, but I’m not comfortable with that disparity,” Browning said.

A stipulation was added to the resolution accepting Barr’s bid that the cost of the project could not exceed the bid price.

Under the consent agreement, the department had 40 months, beginning in September, to install the filter or shut down the boiler. Without it, they could not provide steam to one of their biggest consumers, BASF Corp, WMS General Manager Melanie McCoy said.

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