BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – After a quote to install emergency generators at the North Lee County office building and South Lee County Courthouse was published last week, supervisors now will have to rebid the project to all bidders for the work.
At a workshop following a regular supervisors’ meeting two weeks ago, Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise requested the county look into installing back-up generators to run the phone lines at the administration building.
The request came on the heels of a power glitch that resulted in power being shut down to the phones at the administration office, which now also shuts down the power to the sheriff’s department in Montrose. The sheriff’s department lines were connected with the administration office in Fort Madison to eliminate long distance charges from Montrose last year.
The outage did not effect LeeComm’s 9-1-1 service as those are dedicated emergency lines with back-up power at the sheriff’s building in Montrose.
However, other emergency calls such as LifeAlert and other security and private monitoring services come in on the regular sheriff’s line and access to those calls was unavailable for the time the power was down.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said Mohrfeld Electric in Fort Madison was contacted for a cost to install a back-up generator to alleviate the issue under an emergency repair protocol of the county’s bid policy, which allows the county to do the work without bidding. Fraise said she thought it was appropriate to go ahead with the work under the emergency services protocol. However, at the workshop, supervisor Gary Folluo said the work should go out to bid. Fraise then put the work out for bids.
However, Mohrfeld’s price tag for the work came in at about $23,500 and that amount was made public as part of an article published in another media outlet on the county board meeting, so other potential bidders had the opportunity to see what Mohrfeld’s price would be.
Fraise told the board Tuesday that she didn’t think that was fair to Mohrfelds since bidders had access to the Mohrfeld bid. On Tuesday at 8 a.m. Fraise said the county received a bid from Frank Millard Co. for $19,979.
“It’s not fair to Mohrfeld’s, I don’t think, because you put that in the paper and then got bids after the fact. I don’t know if (other companies) looked at it or not, but they sure had the chance to,” said the county’s north maintenance supervisor Kirk Nafziger. “Protocol was we probably shouldn’t have bid it in the first place, we should have just gone ahead and done it.”
Folluo said the county then went back and put out for bids and Millard came in lower so he motioned to approve Millard’s bid. After a brief discussion, Supervisor Matt Pflug seconded the motion.
“Mohrfeld didn’t rebid it when we went out for bids, so I’d move we take Millard’s bid,” Folluo said.
Fraise and Nafziger both said that it still wasn’t a fair bid because Millard’s had the opportunity to see a competitor’s bid.
“All I would like to say is that I don’t think this was handled very well and it was very unfair to Mohrfeld,” Fedler said. “I can’t support this motion.”
Fraise said they could go back and bid it again and the board agreed to have her rebid the work.
“I think that’s crazy,” Folluo said. “Kirk did exactly what the board asked him to do and that was to go out and get bids and let the chips fall where they may. It was unfortunate circumstances that happened, but this was a formal bid process when the board said go out for bids.”
Fedler and Supervisor Rick Larkin voted against the measure leaving it up to Chairman Don Hunold who voted against the measure saying, “I would rather give these folks another opportunity to bid, but I will say when they made that original bid, I hope that was their best bid. But it doesn’t always happen that way,” Hunold said. The measure failed 2-3.
Fraise said the county needs to take another look at the bidding policy because county staff thought they were doing the right thing. She said her main concern is that now if the power goes down again before the work is done, those services are in jeopardy again.
“My main concern is that the people of this county are safe,” Fraise said after the meeting. “This is on the supervisors’ shoulders not ours. They need to start trusting the department heads to do what’s best for the county.”
County bidding policy on emergency services follows Iowa code and reads:
“EMERGENCY REPAIRS. When emergency repair or replacement is necessary and the delay of advertising and a public letting might cause serious loss or injury to the County, the County shall by resolution make a finding of the necessity to institute emergency proceedings under Iowa Code §3 84.1 03. The Board of Supervisors will determine if outside professional services are required for the emergency repairs.”