Opinion: Choosing higher bid had underlying motivations

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

‘I’ll let you explain that to the newspapers.”

Linn County Commission Chair Rick James uttered those words moments after the commission turned down a $1,225 bid from Odd Job Heroes to repair and renovate the Blue Mound compactor building.

Instead, commissioners approved a $3,100 bid from another contractor with no other explanation other than one from Public Works Administrator Shaun West that it was easier to work with one contractor instead of two.

Commissioner Jim Johnson voted against awarding Rockin H the bid while the other commissioners, including James, voted to accept it.

The winning bidder, Rockin H Construction, Pleasanton, just moments before won an uncontested bid to convert the former La Cygne Senior Center into an ambulance station for $110,700 and change.

So, the first question is, if you want just one company to do all the work, why not bid the projects as one package?

It makes sense to bid them separately. One involves some fairly minor cosmetic changes in an existing structure along with constructing a garage to house an ambulance.

The other: Repair some wind damage and other repairs to a relatively small compactor building. To make it clear, materials for the project had already been purchased from a Linn County lumber company, so the bids were mostly for labor.

The first involves more expertise and labor. The second requires less expertise and labor.

The price difference less than a couple thousand bucks, so what’s the big deal?

It would be understandable if Odd Job Heroes had done something to cast doubt on whether they could complete the job. But in a separate interview, West said there was nothing to indicate the company would do anything but quality work.

However, he did say that the Rockin H bid was considerably more detailed in describing steps it would take to complete the work in a timely fashion. And completing it in a timely manner turns out to be fairly important, because during a part of construction, the power will need to be turned off.

And when the power is off, trash cannot be taken at the compactor site. And that was the underlying reason for his recommendation.

Still, it is important that, when it can, the county should push work to all size of businesses whether they are larger or smaller.

It is the duty of all public governing bodies to bid jobs competitively and accept the best bid. Not necessarily the lowest bid. The best bid.

In weighing the two bids in a public forum, the reasons for making it the best bid on this small project weren’t fully explained. In the future, it makes sense to be clear on why a bid is chosen.

The Linn County Journal welcomes letters to the editor. Submit by email to rsims@linncountyjournal.com or via the Post Office to Linn County Journal, P.O. Box 526, La Cygne, KS 66040. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number where you can be reached. Please make sure your letter is 500 words or less.

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