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Panel OKs money for J&L Steel over intercom system dispute

By Dan Shaw

A state committee Wednesday approved an electrical contractor’s request for reimbursement over a forced replacement of an intercom system at a veterans home in Chippewa Falls.

That decision now gives the full Legislature the next say over whether Hudson-based J&L Steel & Electrical Services Inc. should get $217,499 without having to fight in court.

Reached by phone after the committee vote, Jon Reger, electrical division manager for J&L Steel, said he hopes lawmakers will accept the company’s claim. Reger noted that the members of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works and Telecommunications voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 280, which calls for paying J&L Steel out of the state’s general fund.

Reger said that amount does not include the company’s attorneys’ fees, for which J&L Steel will seek reimbursement if it has to pursue the claim in court.

“Why would the state want to spend more money when they already know the reason for this bill?” Reger said.

The dispute stems from J&L Steel’s installing a different kind of electronic communication system than was called for in state bid specifications for the Chippewa Falls Veterans Home. The specs had sought the use of a Responder 4000 system made by Rauland-Borg Corp., Mount Pleasant, Ill.

But after J&L Steel did not receive a bid from the supplier of that system, Reger has said, the contractor decided to install an alternative product made by Chicago-based Jeron Electronic Systems Inc.

The swap helped J&L Steel win the $2.2 million electrical contract for the project but cost the company money after it was later ordered by the state to use the product originally called for in the bid specs, Reger has said. Since the dispute arose, the company has been taking the various steps that are preliminary to filing a suit against the state.

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