(SALEM) - County councilman David Hoar talked about apples, oranges and bananas during the Tuesday meeting of the Washington County Commissioners but he wasn't talking about a fruit market.
Hoar was describing the range of bids that were received for a project that involves cleaning up debris in the Blue River that was deposited there by the March 2 tornado.
Marcia Walker, of the Salem Tribune reports, five bids were opened during a special commissioners' meeting on Monday and ranged from a low of $190,530 submitted by TNT Disaster Services, to a high of $698,205 submitted by Chistiana Construction Inc.
Other companies submitting bids were Temple & Temple Excavating and Paving, $247,913; Cornerstone Construction, $287,600 and R.L. Vulkerson, $378,000.
"We ended up with one on the low end and one extreme," Hoar said. "The three in the middle were very competitive in price."
Hoar and Mark Clark, attorney for the county council, are working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service on the Blue River Emergency Watershed Protection Project. The NRCS is providing $330,390 in emergency grant funds to cover costs of removing debris from the river, which poses a threat to county roads and bridges in the event of a flood.
The commissioners accepted the recommendation of Hoar and Clark, and awarded the contract to Temple & Temple Excavating and Paving, the second lowest bidder.
The decision wasn't well received by Tara Painter, with TNT, a company based in Alabama. Painter said it was federal money and federal guidelines required the bid go to the lowest bidder. TNT is working on a similar project in Clark County and Painter complained that none of the company's references had been contacted.
"We've been in this work for 16 years and we do it well," Painter said, adding she couldn't fathom why the commissioners would accept a bid that was $60,000 higher.
But Clark and Hoar cited several issues with TNT's bid, including that it didn't include access roads, which NRCS requires to limit damage to surrounding property. NRCS had esimtated the cost of the project at $330,000.
Hoar also mentioned another specification that TNT hadn't met, which was to walk the sites. "She was in a rush to put the bid together," Hoar said. "She didn't have enough time to visit the sites. In Clark County, the ground is different."
Hoar explained that the Clark County project involves terrain in an upland area, unlike Washington County, which involves lowlands. He also said that he had talked with all the property owners involved.
Painter admitted that she only found out about the project at the last minute and had scrambled to prepare the documents to meet the deadline. She said the company uses track-hoes and questioned the need for access roads. Hoar and Clark said the contract is to be awarded to the most responsible and responsive bidder and recommended Temple & Temple. The commissioners agreed, with Commissioner John Mishler abstaining from voting on a motion to accept the recommendation. Mishler works for Indiana Farm Bureau and explained that he abstained because the company does business with some of the bidders.
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