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Findorff low bidder on messy Madison library project

By: Adam Wise//February 3, 2012//

Findorff low bidder on messy Madison library project

By: Adam Wise//February 3, 2012//

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By Adam Wise

J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. on Friday submitted an apparent low bid for the Madison Central Public Library project, inching the city closer to the end of a rebid sprinkled with threats of lawsuits.

The Madison-based general contractor submitted the lowest of four bids at $18,501,000.

“I guess they worked out the bugs in the system, and it’s moving forward toward an award,” said Dave Beck-Engel, Findorff’s executive vice president. “Fortunately, we were successful in our efforts.”

Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. Inc. submitted the second-lowest bid at $18,725,292. The city originally estimated the project at $21,225,000.

Remodel and Renovation-General Construction for Madison Central Public Library

City officials in December also awarded the project to Findorff, which had submitted the second-lowest bid of $18,875,000. The city disqualified the lowest bidder, Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc., for not meeting the bid request’s 20 percent hiring threshold for small or disadvantaged business enterprises.

But Cullen representatives soon threatened to sue the city for requiring the DBE component on a project that doesn’t use federal money.

City Attorney Michael May at the time agreed the program, which promotes the use of women- and minority-owned businesses, shouldn’t have been used on the library project.

He said Friday the city could learn from the rebid.

“We certainly want the program to work and to be successful,” May said. “I think it’s pretty clear we made a mistake, and we don’t want them to make it again.”

To correct the mistake, the Common Council on Jan. 3 rejected all bids from the first round.

“There’s certainly a silver lining in that the bids were lower, but I hope this doesn’t become standard practice,” Alderman Mark Clear said. “Obviously, I don’t think this is the way we wanted this to unfold, but the rebid felt like the only fair way to do this due to inadvertent errors.”

Cullen executives did not immediately return repeated calls seeking comment.

The second round of bidding required contractors meet, or show a good faith effort toward meeting, an 8 percent small-business enterprise hiring threshold. SBE contractors are businesses with annual gross receipts of $750,000 or less, according to the city’s website.

With their initial bids exposed, contractors complained about possible bid shopping mucking up the second round, but Beck-Engel said his company didn’t witness such problems.

Findorff still must prove to have met the 8 percent SBE requirement. A three-member panel will meet Tuesday to determine that, said Bryan Cooper, an architect for the city.

Cooper said if all went as planned, the council could award the contract to Findorff on Feb. 28, with construction beginning March 28.

Beck-Engel said Friday’s results should end any threat of litigation.

“I can’t for the life of me imagine what someone could sue for,” he said. “If there was a lawsuit filed, it would’ve been filed on the previous decisions that were made.”


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