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Error in bidding costs LaLonde state job

Paul Snyder
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A bidding error by LaLonde Contractors Inc. cost the Milwaukee company a state road construction project and increased the price of the job by more than $800,000.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation on Tuesday awarded to Waukesha-based Payne & Dolan Inc. a $14.8 million construction and resurfacing project on Highway 24 in Milwaukee County.

LaLonde last week submitted the low bid of $13.9 million, but WisDOT let the contractor formally withdraw its bid Tuesday after determining LaLonde incorrectly filled out corresponding bid documents.

“It’s one of those unfortunate things,” said William McNary, WisDOT’s chief proposal management engineer.

McNary declined to explain the specifics of the bidding error, but a May 18 letter (PDF) from McNary to LaLonde said the magnitude of the mistake would have affected project costs by more than $1.2 million.

WisDOT originally estimated the project, which runs from Highway 45 to 45th Street in Milwaukee County, at $11 million.

LaLonde President Mike LaLonde declined to comment about the bid or the error. But he said it is ironic it happened only days after David Helbach, an administrator in the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of State Facilities, announced an industry meeting to discuss confusion on bid documents for state building projects.

But neither LaLonde nor McNary said WisDOT needs to hold a similar meeting.

“It’s rare that we have a situation like this,” McNary said.

The problem, LaLonde said, is that the increased volume of roadwork being let by the state can lead to more confusion while assembling bid packages and a greater possibility for error. When work is slower, he said, companies have more review time.

But LaLonde said his company has worked with the state for 25 years and, while rare, mistakes happen.

“The (bidding) system is fine,” he said. “It’s just a matter of people keeping their eye on the bouncing ball.”

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