A shoddy way of doing business
May, 20, 2001
Accepting the lowest bid for construction of a new water tower in north Meridian may yet prove to be in the public's interest. But the manner in which one company was allowed to negotiate specifications while the other was not is a shoddy way of doing the public's business.
The Meridian City Council accepted a $1.26 million bid from Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Ky., amid allegations from the losing bidder that the process was less than fair. Texas-based Landmark, submitting a losing bid of $1.31 million, pointed out to council members that Caldwell's bid did not conform to official specifications.
As reported last week in The Meridian Star, the city's specifications called for six to 12 one-foot sections of concrete in the construction of the tank's base, but Caldwell's bid came in with four one-foot sections. Representatives of the companies, both specialists in the field, argued over the structural stability aspects of the change.
City officials told council members all prospective bidders were given the same specifications on which to base their bids. This is little deceptive because somewhere along the way it has yet to be explained where Caldwell Tanks got someone in city government's approval to, in effect, change the specs.
On its face, even though the bid was lower, the process is unfair because Landmark didn't have the same opportunity to quote on the changed specifications. Would its bid have been lower than Caldwell's?
Public Works Director Benny Wolfe opined that the change didn't significantly alter the stability of the tank.
But the change did significantly alter the nature of the bidding process, giving Caldwell Tanks a clear advantage.
Both companies seem qualified to do the work. Both should have been held to the same specifications. One apparently will get the job because it offered a slightly lower price on elements the other company had no opportunity to consider.
At the very least, the manner in which the bids were received and awarded is questionable and casts an unfortunate cloud over a necessary improvement in water service to residents in north Meridian.