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Minority builders await MMSD protest outcome

By Sean Ryan

A pipeline project award that could generate jobs for Wisconsin minority contractors is held up in a dispute over the low bidder’s minority- and women-owned business participation.

The 25-month project to build a Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District pipeline from Muskego to Milwaukee offers a lot of work to minority-owned companies such as Dakota Intertek Corp., New Berlin, said Construction Manager Todd Ormiston. Dakota submitted subcontractor bids to all four general contractors that bid the project, he said.

“We had good conversations with all of them,” he said. “It’s a big deal to us. It would mean a lot to us.”

Joel Kennedy Constructing Corp.’s $20.2 million bid placed second for the pipeline project. Kennedy, based in Waukegan, Ill., is challenging the $17 million low bid filed by Meade Electric Co., McCook, Ill.

Kennedy claims Meade’s bid fails to comply with MMSD goals and reporting requirements for subcontracting with women- and minority-owned companies.

“Obviously, when Joel Kennedy submitted its bid, they put forth a lot of efforts to make the requirement,” said Aaron Kastens, attorney representing Kennedy Constructing.

MMSD has a 20 percent participation goal for minority-, women-owned and small businesses on all projects.

Kennedy’s bid would achieve 20.3 percent participation. Meade’s original bid would have achieved 10.4 percent participation, but after revising its bid, the contractor achieved 18 percent.

Kennedy is protesting the changes to Meade’s bid, arguing the original bid was incomplete in documenting participation by the target companies and that district staff let the company revise its bid to amend the error. State law forbids changes relating to the Minority Business Enterprise program after bids are opened, according to a letter from Kennedy asking the bid be rejected.

Michael McCabe, MMSD director of legal services, said attorneys are reviewing Kennedy’s protest.

“It’s a standard procedure to allow certain kinds of upgrades to MBEs that doesn’t affect their bid,” he said, “and doesn’t affect their price.”

Representatives from Meade did not respond to calls for comment.

The contract is to build a pipeline to transfer methane gas from the Emerald Park Landfill in Muskego to Milwaukee, where the gas will be burned to power the district’s Jones Island sewer treatment plant.

Even though the debate is between two Illinois companies, the project’s stakes are high for Wisconsin minority contractors, Ormiston said. Dakota, he said, and could get between $275,000 and $1.5 million worth of work from the project.

According to Meade’s bid, Dakota would get $277,900 in work excavating and removing contaminated soil. Ormiston said he does not know whether the company is included in Kennedy’s final bid.

Noble Walton, director of operations for GNG Enterprises LLC, a Milwaukee-based minority-owned business, said he knows he’s not in Kennedy’s bid package. But the company would get about $750,700 in trucking work if Meade lands the contract. The project would put between 12 and 25 GNG people and trucks to work, he said.

“It’s a tremendous boost for us and it would give us an opportunity to put some other people to work,” Walton said, “and it’s just a tremendous feeling, that’s all, to let the other contractors know that we are qualified.”

The MMSD Commission on Monday was to consider accepting Meade’s bid, but rescheduled a decision for May 24, said Bill Graffin, MMSD spokesman.

Ormiston said he understands the delay.

“On a rare occasion, if somebody meets the goal and the low bidder doesn’t,” Ormiston said, “do they have the right to protest? Sure.”

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