Byline: Brian Johnson
When the Metropolitan Council opened bids last summer to build a 400,000-square-foot Metro Transit bus garage in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park-based utility contractor PWS appeared to be a shoo-in to work on the project.
PWS, a Native American-owned business, was part of two contractor teams bidding on the project: one led by Knutson Construction and another by Adolfson & Peterson. A&P submitted the apparent low bid of $114.1 million and Knutson was right behind at $114.48 million.
"The project simply needed to be awarded and we were looking pretty good," said Leroy Meyer, president and CEO of PWS, a certified disadvantaged business enterprise and provider of utility, earthwork and demolition services.
But then things got messy.
First, the bids came in well over the $102.5 million estimate. Then the Met Council was prepared to award the contract to Knutson after concluding that A&P didn't make a "good faith effort" to meet the council's 15% goal for participation of disadvantaged business enterprises, or DBEs.
In September, A&P filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court to challenge the council's decision. A&P dropped the lawsuit after learning that the council planned to rebid the project, according to council documents.
Now, PWS may find itself on the outside looking in. And other contractors, including small and disadvantaged businesses, are similarly going back to square one as they scramble to prepare a new set of numbers a costly and onerous process.
Meyer said the council's decision to rebid is ironic because the DBE goals are supposed to help firms like PWS, which was part of the team that met the goals. For PWS, the value of the contract was about $1 million.
"By throwing the job out, people they were supposed to be helping are the ones that are hurt," Meyer said.
"Now [the project] is back on the street. It's always harder to secure a job after people know the numbers," he said.
In a statement, Met Council spokesman John Schadl said the council chose to seek new bids in part to ensure that the project could be constructed "in a timely manner" and that "all vendors were competing on a level playing field."
"The Metropolitan Council agrees that bidding can be time consuming and expensive. It is precisely for these types of reasons that the decision to resolicit bids was taken very seriously.The timing of the projects and litigation brought in this matter were weighed significantly in our decision to resolicit...