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Milwaukee invokes local preference on another water contract

By Sean Ryan

American Sewer Services Inc. is facing the loss of a fifth contract to Milwaukee’s local business preference.

American Sewer, Rubicon, on Wednesday morning submitted a low bid of $600,880 for a Milwaukee water main contract. But the Milwaukee Department of Public Works recommended the city accept Milwaukee-based M.J. Construction Inc.’s $602,865 bid because of a city law giving a 5 percent bid preference to Milwaukee-based companies.

Including this contract, American Sewer will have lost more than $2 million in Milwaukee projects to M.J. Construction because of the local preference, said Dennis Biondich, American Sewer president.

“We’re running two crews now,” he said, “when in the past we’ve run anywhere between three and five.”

Biondich said he will challenge the city’s recommended award, sending an appeal to a panel of Milwaukee officials who have unanimously rejected all of American Sewer’s past appeals. He said he does not expect to win the contract, but at least wants to send a message to Milwaukee elected officials.

A Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge in late April rejected most of the arguments American Sewer made in a lawsuit against the local preference. Biondich said he is awaiting the judge’s final decision and has not decided whether to appeal the case.

He said the best chance to get the city law repealed is a change in state laws. The Wisconsin Underground Contractors Association members are planning to lobby for a state law change in 2011, he said.


  1. Boo hoo that a contractor based almost 50 miles away from Milwaukee didn’t get the job.

    I would much rather have my tax dollars supporting local businesses, paying local taxes, and employing local people. Considering it’s only a 5% bidding preference, that’s a very reasonable standard.

  2. Jesse,

    Your already riduculous taxes/sewer/water bills are only going to increase due to this 5% bid preference. I’m an estimator for a contractor that is based just outside of the Milwaukee limits and due to this preference we don’t even bid City of Milwaukee work anymore. So not only are you paying up to an additional 5% for the same work to be done, but the city is also eliminating potential competition from contractors outside the city limits. On top of this, the city requires 25% of all labor hours on a project to be performed by residents from the City of Milwaukee target area. That means regardless of the contractor who is low bid, at least 25% of the work is still performed by people who reside in Milwaukee. My feeling is that if this 5% bid preference is going to continue to exist, all nearby municipalities should take up legislation to give a 5% bid preference to all contractors that do not reside in the City of Milwaukee. Then we would see how quick this ridiculous preference program would dissappear.

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