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Argument begins over fire station rebuilding bid

Fire station #3 has stood for nearly 40 years. (click for larger version)
February 16, 2011 - What parameters are considered by the Orion Township Board of Trustees when determining who is awarded building contracts?

A debate erupted at the trustee meeting Monday, Feb. 7, over this question.

During public comments, Ashley Heidelberg, an employee of Heritage Contracting LLC of Clarkston and Jean Roukounakis, an acquaintance of the company's CEO and Orion Township resident, challenged the board's decision to award the contract for rebuilding township fire station #3 to a rival company.

"Per your bid document, it clearly states that it is the intent of the owner to award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder, provided that the bid has been submitted in compliance with the bidding document," said Roukounakis. "Heritage contracting is the lowest qualifying bidder, and the documents were submitted as requested, and therefor we object to the awarding of this contract to anyone other than the lowest qualified bidder, in this case - Heritage Contracting.

"We wanted to make this publicly known, and we wanted to let the taxpayers know that we were the low bidder."

The Dailey Company, who received the contract, estimated their work would cost just under $1,487,000, roughly $2,000 more than what Heritage said the project would cost. However, Heritage's projected time for completion of the project, while not strictly defined, was greater than what The Dailey Company estimated.

Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb said he believed Heritage Contracting LLC to be "a very good company that fought hard for [the contract.]"

However, Gibb pointed out that while Heritage was the low bidder, the time required to complete the job was deciding factor.

"$2,000 on a contract like this is less than the cost of a single permit for this job, and for a $1.5 million contract, the two estimates presented were nearly identical in that regard," said Gibb. "For me, individually, I considered other factors.

"The size of The Dailey Company, the timeliness of The Dailey Company, their responsiveness and reactions from the architect while interviewing the firms indicated to me that they can finish this job in the time they claimed."

Gibb said the size of The Dailey Company, in particular, indicated it had the resources and equipment to finish the project in the projected timetable.

During the meeting, Trustee Mark Crane echoed these thoughts, and said having the fire station "up and running" 110 days sooner was of the utmost importance.

Heritage rebutted by claiming that not only was their schedule under the 300 days allotted, but also saying that their schedule included unseen factors like weather conditions. They also argued, citing their own experiences with similar projects, they claimed the timetable presented by The Dailey Company was "unrealistic."

"I've been doing this for 42 years, I've been scheduling projects since 1972, and this is the first time that I'm a little disturbed with how (a client) is handling (the bidding process)," said Daniel Thomas, CEO and President of Heritage Contracting. "I had requested a second meeting with the board, and the fire chief, to show you the schedule, and explain why it takes this long.

"(The Dailey Company's) schedule can't be met, and they say they can do it, but what if it takes them 300 days?"

Thomas said if the intent was not to give the contract to the low bidder, it, "was to give it to somebody's buddy."

To this comment, Crane responded, seemingly upset by the idea the contract was going to a boardmember's friend.

"Sir, I do not know the architect, I do not know you, I don't know Mr. Dailey and if I walked out the back of this room I would not be able to recognize him," said Crane. "You stood here and said 'he's crazy and there's no way he can get it done in 190 days' but there was someone else in the bidding who said they could do it in 140 days, so are they liars too?

"To suggest there is some kind of favoritism - I favor the citizens who are living in that section of Orion Township, who are going to be serviced by that fire station 110 days sooner using (The Dailey Company's) contract."

With that, trustee Neal Porter motioned to award the contract to The Dailey Company, with Crane seconding the proposal.

Heritage went on to question why The Dailey Company would not include a liquidated damage clause to their contract, meaning that if for whatever reason the company could not complete the project in the projected amount of time, they would essentially pay a fine for every day the project remained incomplete.

Thomas also questioned why any post-bid negotiations had not been made a matter of public record.

"What they are doing is not kosher," said Thomas. "It seems like they're awarding this bid to The Dailey Company because he didn't get [the bid] on the senior center.

"The city is not doing what they should be doing, and that is to review these contract schedules, because anyone can lie on their bid."

The Dailey Company projected the project complete in 190 days, while Heritage projected the project done within 300 days.

The Board of Trustees awarded the contract for the rebuilding of Orion Township Fire Station #3, located at 3365 Gregory Road in Gingellville, to the Dailey Company of Orion Township in a 7-0 vote.

The station was originally built in 1971.

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