Rejected project bidder says city paying too much for work

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2003

[12/12/03]The president and CEO of an Alabama-based company says the City of Vicksburg is paying $100,000 too much for improvements at the waste water treatment plant.

The city’s response is that more money was spent to get better equipment.

Robert Weidler of Hi-Tech Environmental, Birmingham, Ala., said he wrote specifications for an upgrade to the grit removal system at the sewage plant that excluded his company and other suppliers. Hi-Tech Environmental builds equipment for sewage treatment.

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Hi-Tech did not submit a bid for the project, but a contractor using their product did. Contractors Carter & Mullings ultimately lost the bid although their price was $100,000 less than the the company that won the city deal.

“The engineers had structured this bid so that only one bidder could be in the base bid,” Weidler said.

The bid package prepared by Alford Engineering of Jackson specified that the work should be done using products made by Schreiber LLC of Trussville, Ala. The bid package allowed for contractors to submit alternate bids using other products provided the equipment met certain standards.

Weidler said his company’s equipment met all those standards, but that the alternate bid by Carter & Mullings was not considered.

The project was awarded to Hemphill Construction of Florence for $354,500, using products by Schreiber. Carter & Mullings, bid, using the same equipment, was $373,296, but the company’s alternate bid, using Hi-Tech’s product, was $254,454.

“I know it sounds like spilled milk and some of it is, but…I just don’t think it’s fair,” Weidler said. “It’s really not right.”

The project estimate had been $250,000, but money for the work is available. Mayor Laurence Leyens had questioned the cost of the project during a board meeting Monday.

Rosemary Bagby, head of the city’s state-recognized waste water treatment plant, explained the cost saying the upgrade would replace the current outdated system and provide a backup. Bagby, who has won awards for her management of the plant, later said that Schreiber equipment requested in the bid package is a better product for the city’s waste water treatment needs.

“None of the alternates were of the same quality,” Bagby said.

Under state law, public entities cannot “write out” vendors by making specifications so tight only one manufacturer can meet them. Entities are, however, allowed to spend more to get higher quality.

Weidler did not indicate he planned any appeal or legal action.