On the edge of their seats in Yorkville
There are no small bids, even in a small town.
The obstruction-clearing of the Root River Canal in tiny Yorkville, a town 22 corn and sorghum fields west of Racine in southeastern Wisconsin, is a small project, relatively speaking.
Shawn Roberts isn’t big on speaking relatively.
At about 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Roberts, owner of the eponymous Shawn Roberts Lawn and Tree, walked into the Union Grove Village Hall (Yorkville is so small it shares a town hall with its relatively larger neighbor) as if he were the Muhammad Ali of canal clearing.
He strolled up to the counter inside the town office and announced his presence to Karen, a rugged, blond-haired woman in charge of most everything Yorkville-related.
It was 10:47 as he handed in his bid, 12 minutes before the drop-dead deadline.
“How many bids are there?” Roberts asked, hoping for a low number.
“Two,” Karen replied.
Roberts spat out a single-syllable expletive.
Karen flinched lightly before shrugging it off.
One bid for the canal-clearing project had been turned in Wednesday. One came in early Thursday morning. Four minutes after Roberts turned in his bid, a fourth came in. Two minutes later, a fifth.
For six minutes, the Yorkville Village Hall office morphed back into what it usually is on any given Thursday morning: devoid of drama.
Seven minutes later, just after 11 a.m., across the hall from the Village Hall office, Ian Bagley, an engineer with Nielsen, Madsen and Barber SC, Racine, signaled the start of the climactic act.
Bagley, whose firm is the lead engineer on the project, began tearing envelopes containing the hopes of five companies.
As the five men seeking the work inched forward in their plastic chairs, the first bid was announced: $396,990 from Clean Cut Tree Service.
Roberts’ bid was next.
“Shawn Roberts bids $157,185,” Bagley said.
Roberts’ face grew stern. He sighed. He’d have to wait through three more bids. The rest was up to Bagley:
“Willkomm Excavating bids $387,995.”
“Reesman’s Excavating bids $199,140.”
“Western Contractors bids $325,500.”
And then, just like the corn harvest wrapping up down the street, it was over. Roberts sank back in his chair.
“I just left 40 grand on the table,” Roberts said, half exuberant, half irritated.
Roberts got what he wanted; just not exactly what he wanted.
“This job is in my backyard,” said Roberts, whose company is based in Sturtevant, eight miles down the back roads from Yorkville. “I left some money on the table, but you never know. I’ve won bids by $3 this year. You just don’t know what people are going to come in at. How do you know?”
As Roberts walked out of the Village Hall on Thursday, the tension had evaporated. He was a politician, everybody’s pal. He greeted people by their first names and would have chatted about anything from bowel obstructions to canal obstructions.
He knows all 34.4 square miles of the town, and maybe all 3,291 residents.
“I’ve been doing this for a while,” Roberts said. “This is what you do if you like to work.”
Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.