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Ottertail bike path bid award creates questions

A public forum was held in conjunction with the July 19 Ottertail City Council meeting in order to discuss the bid award for the city's bike path project.

Community members at the meeting voiced their concerns and questions about a local company not receiving the bid for the project.

The city received a total of three bids for the bike path project, but of the three only two qualified, according to the bidding specifications. Of the two qualifying bidders, the bid was awarded on June 29 to Central Specialties, Inc. for the amount of $386, 973.85.

Ottertail Aggregate's significantly lower bid was not accepted by the city because of the incomplete nature of that company's bid. Discussion centered around whether or not the bids could have been thrown out and re-bid once the Ottertail Aggregate bid was discovered to be incomplete.

Chris McConn, environmental engineer with Interstate Engineering, stated that after consulting with several sources, including MnDOT and county representatives, throwing out the bids was not recommended.

"When we opened the bids we documented what we received and then called MnDOT. Their advice was to throw out the bid that was incomplete," McConn explained. "From a business standpoint the state wants you to pretend it is company A, B, and C, and you don't know company A, B, and C."

"Do you ever, if someone is missing one thing or two things, contact them to give them the opportunity to give you everything you need?" questioned Councilmember Heather Rosenthal.

McConn responded to Rosenthal's question by saying it depends who you are bidding with. On locally funded projects, it is common to have irregularities with the bids.

"In this case, it was federal dollars that were spent," McConn said. "MnDOT's protocol is that you have no option and you should throw out that bid."

If proper bidding protocol is not followed, there is a possibility the city could lose over $300,000 in federal funds being used for the project. Other potential consequences include a lawsuit and difficulty obtaining federal funds in the future.

"As your attorney, I cannot advise you to do anything but proceed," said Terry Karkela, attorney for the city of Ottertail. He said that once a bid has been submitted it cannot be altered, changed, added to, or subtracted from.

In other city news, the council approved a motion to move forward with a tree removal project estimated to cost $525. Several trees are sitting in water right now and are leaning over the road. Ottertail City Clerk/Treasurer Elaine Hanson reported that, "Eight trees need to be removed along Three Lakes Road. We checked into having the trees removed by Carr's Tree Service."

Maintenance Coordinator Lee Sherman brought up the need to find a new way to display the flags the city puts up for holidays. He asked members of the council if they had any ideas for a different kind of flag display. Right now, the city is using a temporary type of flag holder mounted onto telephone poles.

The city would like to find a flag display that will hold up under poor weather conditions so the flags are not damaged by falling to the ground. Councilmember Terry Wagenman suggested getting the Ottertail Auction Committee involved with this project. The group was responsible for getting the welcome to Ottertail flags displayed around town.

This month's wind and hail storm resulted in some harm to city property. Hanson mentioned that a claims agent looked at the damage to a manufactured home at the pull park site and to half of a roof at the ballpark. The council decided to reroof the entire building at the ballpark.