What appears to be an attempt to put a financial squeeze on McMinnville officials will result in a slight delay in paving North Chancery Street. The project will be re-bid.
During a called meeting, officials voted to re-bid the project after being told Highways Inc. may be overcharging the city in two areas — in its contract termination cost and in the cost to pave North Chancery.
“When it comes to North Chancery, I do have questions that may have legal ramifications,” consulting engineer Anthony Pelham said in bringing the situation to the board’s attention.
Highways Inc. was originally awarded the project to widen the street with its bid of $998,000. The contract was signed, but a notice to proceed was not given. Instead, officials decided not to move forward with widening.
Highways wants $20,000 to terminate its contract with the city.
“In my mind, that is excessive for the termination of what their actual cost would be between the bid and the actual agreement, but that was the number they gave us,” said Pelham. “Are they due some kind of compensation? In my opinion, yes. I just feel $20,000 is excessive.”
He says the city can either pay the amount requested or ask Highways Inc. to present an itemized list of its damages in an effort to negotiate the price.
Pelham also questioned the price quoted by Highways Inc. to pave the street without widening.
“The number I was initially given, in my mind, was too high for what the price should be for just two lanes,” he said.
Because it could violate the fair bidding process, Pelham refrained from giving officials any specific number given to him by Highways Inc. for doing the paving project.
Pelham says he obtained a second bid from APAC that confirmed his belief. Without giving exact numbers, there was “substantially more than $20,000 difference” between the two.
“I would like to cancel the contract with Highways and pursue that with APAC,” Pelham said. “Because we did get a revised bid from Highways and solicited a second bid, but did not publicly advertise, does that violate any purchasing requirements on behalf of the city?”
City administrator David Rutherford says if the city stays with Highways it does not have to re-bid the project. If the decision is to not go with Highways, the project has to be re-bid to be in accordance with the law.
Alderman Clair Cochran questioned the possibility of telling Highways about the discrepancy to see if it would lower the cost.
“We did that,” said Pelham. “Their number is still more than a $20,000 difference.”
If officials re-bid the project, the process will push back the start date.
“It sounds like they are using this as leverage against us,” said Vice Mayor Everett Brock. “They know we will have to go back and re-bid this thing. Maybe if they hear we have decided to re-bid they will be more reasonable.”
Officials voted to re-bid the paving project and to request an itemized list from Highways for the $20,000 contract termination cost. No time has been set for paving to begin.