At the Manistique Downtown Development Authority (DDA) meeting of 03/20/01, a quorum of members discussed the low bid submitted by Bacco Construction and the ~$19,000 greater bid by U.P. Sand and Gravel, for completion of the River Street renovation work. The DDA discussed recommending the higher bid to the Manistique City Council. Several local business representatives attended this meeting, with a letter signed by a number of local business owners. The letter requested that the higher bid, from U.P. Sand and Gravel, be accepted.
It was stated by the DDA president, Bill Hentchell, that the City Charter indicates any and all bids could be rejected, "if advisable". He noted that "advisable" was subject to different interpretations.
DDA Director, Wally Legget, stated that greater accountability would be had from U.P. Sand and Gravel, a local main contractor. It was his opinion that the same degree of accountability was not available from the outside bidding contractor, Bacco Construction, because they did not have to answer to the community on a day to day basis. Mr. Legget also mentioned past performance problems with Bacco.
DDA member Dick Ketcik suggested that the local bidding contractor lower his bid.
The local business representatives expressed their desire for U.P. Sand and Gravel, based on speculation that it was likely that business disruptions would be less severe, projected scheduled completion times were more likely to be met, and greater gain by the the community would come from "supporting" local businesses.
The subject of bid recommendation was tabled, to be decided at a special meeting on 04/03/01
At the special meeting of the DDA of 04/03/01, further discussion occurred, concerning the River Street renovation project.
Early in the discussion, City Manager Housler stated his reservations concerning the wisdom of discarding the low bid. He stated that the considered procedure of the DDA "jeopardized an established and acceptable system" of bid selection. He mentioned the possibility of litigation initiated by Bacco Construction, because they might not consider rejection of their low bid as "advisable" city policy.
DDA Director, Mr. Legget, provided more explicit details of past performance problems with Bacco Construction.
Most members of the DDA, mentioned some relevant reservation concerning the considered rejection of the low bidder.
After the discussion was completed, a vote was taken. All members, except City Manager Housler, voted to recommend U.P. Sand and Gravel's higher bid to city council.
The bid recommendation was an agenda item of the Manistique City Council meeting of 04/09/01.
The signatories of the letter to the DDA, requesting the higher local bidder, were well represented in the audience.
DDA Director, Wally Legget, made a passionate appeal for the higher bid from U.P. Sand and Gravel. He justified his position with details concerning several past problems with Bacco.
In the course of spirited and thoughtful discussion, a number of points were made.
City attorney, John Filaramo, made sure that the city council understood the litigious nature of what is "advisable", concerning the acceptance or rejection of bids.
In response to a question from council person Greg Mulligan, City Manager Housler and Marvin Winburg, an engineer overseeing work for the city, stated that regardless of problems with Bacco there was no history of problems that would justify rejection of Bacco's bid. Housler stated that the problems with Bacco "were no more than any other contractor".
A phone call made to U.P. Engineering, of Marquette, resulted in an opinion that past troubles with Bacco were not of sufficient consequence to justify rejecting their bid.
DDA Director, Wally Legget, stated "If you do hire Bacco, make sure they are supervised closely, and be prepared to shut the job down, to insure compliance."
Council person Chris Gagnon noted that, paraphrased, "Why (reject this bid) now, after accepting numerous other bids from Bacco? Kind of hard to defend in court, isn't it?"
Council person Jack Hogue noted "Our local folk are employed elsewhere and bring their wages back to be spent in our community. So why not Bacco's?"
City Manager Housler was asked how many Bacco employees were from the Manistique area. He "guesstimated" some 14-15.
A representative Bacco employee, from the Manistique area, spoke on behalf of numerous other local Bacco employees at the council meeting.
Council person Chris Gagnon, reading the DDA minutes, noted that several members had their reservations against rejecting the lowest bid.
City Attorney Filaramo stated that scheduled completion concerns should have been expressed in the bid specifications.
Council person Sablack stated "I want to see tight supervision."
After discussion, the vote was unanimous to accept the low bid from Bacco Construction.
Can a group of special interest folk, such as those that supported the request to recommend the higher bid, sway DDA membership judgement concerning principles of responsible government?
Are tax paid projects to be recommended by the Manistique DDA to the Manistique City Council, based on the perceived needs and desires of a minority that have a particular financial gain or loss, relative to a particular project?
Would someone care to explain why I should have faith in the DDA bidding process of those projects that do not come to my detailed attention or that of city council members?
Was there a temporary, collective lapse of judgement in the choice of the higher bidder? Was that lapse influenced by business interests that are willing to pervert the checks and balances designed to insure the general public interest in public projects? If it was temporary, when will that lapse occur again?
Is it more appropriate to address concerns by including them in the bid specifications that will become part of an accepted contract? Is attention to contract details more important than after the fact recriminations?
Is it more appropriate to insure contract performance by exercising appropriate control and supervision of a project rather than bringing up random, after the fact, reasons to deny a bidder, even if those reasons are true?
Have various "offices" of Manistique City government been responsible, in part, by deliberately ignoring marginal or shoddy work that was not included, as such, in a contracted project?
Is it necessary to reinvent the painful lessons of history? Is Manistique a community in India?