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State let Immel withdraw train shed bid after error (UPDATE)

Howard Immel Inc. withdrew its bid for a project to build a new train shed at Milwaukee's Intermodal Station. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Howard Immel Inc. withdrew its bid for a project to build a new train shed at Milwaukee's Intermodal Station. (Staff photos by Kevin Harnack)

By Marie Rohde

Howard Immel Inc. failed to include a $1.8 million subcontractor’s cost in its bid to build a new train shed at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, according to state records.

The error could have cost Immel its $400,000 proposal guaranty, but the Wisconsin Department of Transportation did not require the forfeiture.

On Wednesday, WisDOT allowed Immel to withdraw its bid proposal without penalty but expressed concern about what happened.

“The Department would like to stress our reservations about the manner in which the subcontractor quote was modified and subsequently not included in the bid,” said William McNary, WisDOT’s chief proposal management engineer.

McNary noted that the error would create such a significant financial loss for Immel as to affect the company’s ability to do the job.

A report from Immel to McNary explaining the error gave a glimpse at the tense final moments of a general contractor preparing a complex bid. Kelly Hafeman, Immel president, did not return calls for comment.

According to the report, seven line items in the invitation to bid involved steel supply and erection costs. Immel received an e-mail bid from a subcontractor, Johnson Machine Works Inc., on Sept. 27, the day before the project submission deadline, according to the report. Immel reported that the bid was unsolicited, and Immel’s practice is to only accept bids submitted by fax but the company decided to use the e-mail bid nonetheless.

The conference room where Immel employees were working to prepare the bid was busy with a dedicated fax machine, two phones, cell phones and two computers, according to the report. One computer was dedicated to WisDOT’s electronic bid form and the other was dedicated to Immel’s internal bid form. There was also a large-screen television used by several Immel employees who were checking the DOT bid form for errors as information was being entered.

Six subcontractors submitted partial bids on steel and Immel had to break out the separate bids, which were not easy to compare, according to the report. Immel then had to put the amounts into the WisDOT form.

The Johnson e-mail bid came in the night before, according to the report, and Immel employees did not notice a revised bid sent from Johnson via e-mail, which was $1.8 million higher.



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