One of the latest contractors to lose work due to Milwaukee’s local preference law is crying foul over the city’s growing list of bidder requirements.
“We already have EBE (emerging business enterprise) and resident requirements to deal with,” said John Stafford, senior estimator at D.C. Burbach Inc., Waukesha. “I think that’s enough.”
D.C. Burbach was the low bidder Tuesday on a Milwaukee paving job on 66th Street between Capitol Drive and Congress Street. The contractor lost to the high bidder, Snorek Construction Inc., because of the city’s local preference law.
Greenfield-based Snorek leases property in the city of Milwaukee, making the contractor eligible for local bidder preference, according to the Milwaukee Department of Public Works. The city is recommending Snorek be awarded the contract.
Snorek representatives did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
The city law requires Milwaukee-based builders win contracts if their bids are within 5 percent — with a limit of up to $25,000 — of the low bid.
Contractors bidding on city projects also must adhere to the Milwaukee Opportunities for Restoring Employment ordinance, which requires city residents registered with Milwaukee’s Residents Preference Program perform 40 percent of the hours worked on city projects. MORE also requires small contractors registered as emerging business enterprises receive 25 percent of contract money.
“The EBE requirements obviously limit the subcontractors that can quote us, and there’s a cost to that,” Stafford said. “We can’t just take the lowest bid.”
The limits imposed by the MORE requirements are restrictive enough, Stafford said, without the added difficulty of losing projects to local preference.
D.C. Burbach submitted a bid of $241,217.10 for the 66th Street work. Waukesha-based Zenith Tech Inc. bid $241,821.90 and Snorek Construction bid $248,018.34, according to documents from the Milwaukee DPW.
“I hope Milwaukee property owners know they’re going to pay $7,000 more for a guy that leases property in Milwaukee,” Stafford said. “It’s totally ridiculous.”
Once official notice of the bid award is published, D.C. Burbach plans to file a protest with the city, Stafford said.
“It probably won’t get us anywhere, but at least they’re gonna hear it,” he said.
Scott Piefer, project manager at Zenith Tech, declined to comment on the results of the bid opening.
Tuesday’s bid results mark the second time D.C. Burbach lost a contract due to local preference, Stafford said. The first time, in late April, was particularly upsetting because the company was low on work at the time, he said.
“It definitely had an impact on the people working for us,” Stafford said. “It puts our people at a disadvantage, and it puts our suppliers at a disadvantage when we lose work.”
D.C. Burbach employs some Milwaukee residents, he said, who have written letters to their respective aldermen protesting the local preference law, to no avail.
“It concerns everyone here, every time we bid,” Stafford said. “It’s just too much.”