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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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To Rebuild Cranberry Ave. Before The Snow Flies

Issue Date: September 16, 2021

At a brief special meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, Peshtigo City Council accepted a bid from PTS Contractors of Green Bay to reconstruct a portion of S. Cranberry Ave. from Maple to Birch Ave. at a price of $389,500. The work includes replacement of water and sewer lines, plus curb, gutter and new pavement, and the bid specifications stipulated that if the work is not completed this year the contractor will be assessed a $500 per day fine until the job is done.

Work is to start in the very near future and be completed by Nov. 1. Mayor Cathi Malke stressed that she wants no streets torn up and no heavy equipment parked in the way to interfere with events connected with the Historical Weekend events on Sept. 24 through 26 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Peshtigo Fire.

The PTS bid was accepted after much discussion, even though it is $1,723 higher than the low bid of $387,777 from Kruczek Construction of Green Bay. The Kruczek Construction bid was disallowed because it included a "pre-qualification" that the company would not agree to be subject to the $500 per day fine for failing to complete the work this year.

The four bids received were all fairly close. The other two were from Barley Trucking, Inc. for $402,294.45, and DeGroot, Inc. for $404,426.36.

Due to problems created by Covid in regard to obtaining materials and hiring subcontractors, company owner John Kruczek was worried that he might not be able to meet the requirement to complete the work this year and his low bid included a proviso - a qualification - that he would not agree to be subject to the $500 per day fine if for any reason they were unable to complete the job during this year's construction season.

Public Works Director George Cowell had asked City Attorney David Spangenberg for advice on options for accepting or rejecting the bids.

In a written response, Spangenberg said Cowell had explained to him that bids have been opened and the lowest bid is a qualified bid with respect to the timing for completion of the project. Spangenberg said he also understood that now the winning bidder had offered to remove the qualification.

A "pre-qualification" is adding a proviso that was not part of the original bid documents provided for all prospective bidders.

Spangenberg said he believed the Council had three options:

First would be to accept the lowest bid with the qualification, but Spangenberg expressed concern that qualified bids have been rejected by the city in the past, and this could create precedent for future bids.

Second would be to award the contract to the next highest qualified bidder, and third would be to postpone the project to a later date and re-bid it at that time, "given the current uncertainty and high cost of materials."

Kruczek was present to argue his case at Monday's meeting, as was Steve Horn, spokesman for PTS, which was the second lowest bidder.

City officials on hand included Malke; Spangenberg; Aldermen Debbie Sievert, Brigitte Schmidt, Katie Berman, Keith Klimek and Richard Berth; Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal, and Cowell.

At the start of the meeting Kruczek he had been worried about the possibility that difficulties created by Covid would affect availability of materials and hiring of sub-contractors needed to do the work, and the $500 per day fine could total hundreds of thousands of dollars if frost set in early and completion had to be put off until spring.

Kruczek added that after the bid deadline he had been able to ascertain that he can get the materials on time, and had made agreements with sub-contractors so that also will not be a problem. Confident now that his company would be able to get the work done during the specified 40-day time frame, he was willing to remove the pre-qualification from his bid.

Horn asked if that offer made the Kruczek bid legitimate, and not altered.

Malke said after Cowell explained there would be opportunities for questions.

Cowell explained the reconstruction of the 200 block of Cranberry Ave. from Maple to Birch streets is a major project. He verified of the four bids, only one had a pre-qualification. He referred to the e-mail from Spangenberg, and declared it is difficult when bidders "pre-qualify" their bid offers.

Cowell said they could reject all the bids and start the bidding process over, but that would make it unlikely to get the work done this year. Whether they re-bid now or in January, but in either case the work would done in spring. Delay could mean prices would continue to go up, or possibly they could go down. No one knows for sure. The special Council meeting had been called to make that decision.

To questions from Sievert, Cowell was asked if he had planned the project for this year. He agreed things are unpredictable in regard to time and materials due to Covid, but noted the other three bidders felt they could get the work done this year. He said the winning contractor has 10 days to get his documents signed and bonds issued, and the work could start any time after that.

Berth asked if Peshtigo had ever before accepted a bid with qualifications, and Cowell believed they had not. Schmidt also could not remember ever doing that.

Klimek asked if the job must be done this year. Cowell said the water pipe is old and corroded, sewer lines are brittle old clay tile, and the road condition is poor , "...but there's nothing dire that makes it have to happen this year."

Schmidt asked if they would lose funding. Cowell said Local Road Improvement Project (LRIP) funds can still be used next year. The city's state road aid allocation for next year might go down, but the state pays on a 3-year rolling average, so it evens out.

Berth asked if the old pipe meant there could be water main breaks, and Cowell said it could, and there are three bad main line water valves that need some work, although there have been no breaks so far and they are not under any DNR orders.

Malke again declared she does not want the work to start before the fire anniversary weekend.

Berman asked how confident Cowell was that the work can be completed in the time frame, and wondered, "Were the other bidders being realistic?"

Cowell agreed it's an aggressive schedule, but felt the job can be done in 28 days, including pouring the concrete curbs, etc. The contract calls for completion in 40 days, or the $500 daily fine kicks in.

Schmidt asked Cowell which option he preferred. Cowell said he felt uncomfortable going with a pre-qualified bid, so would prefer to either go with the second bidder or re-advertise either now or in January. Regardless, April 15 would be the new start date.

Berth asked if they would for certain get the work done this year if they took one of the other bidders, and Cowell said they would.

Klimek asked if the city always puts conditions in its requests for bids, and Cowell said they do. He said weather was the reason the 40 days for completion had been put in.

Berman felt if Cowell was okay with postponing the project she would prefer to re-bid and wait until next year.

Schmidt was a bit concerned that the bids were all quite close, and bidders all now knew exactly what prices the others offered. She worried that might affect other bidders in future.

Klimek wanted to avoid setting a precedent, and cautioned, "If something is done that shouldn't be done, it comes back to bite you."

Horn said accepting pre-qualifications in bids could create problems for everyone. He also cautioned the later it gets into the season, the higher prices tend to get, and no one knows what will happen to prices next year. He said sub contractors have been raising their prices steadily. He said he cannot guarantee the weather, but subcontractors Peshtigo Asphalt and Martell have both assured him they can get to Peshtigo in time to get their parts of the job done as long as they're ready to go by the end of October.

"I'd be putting a gun to my head if I agree to a $500 a day fine and I can't get it done," Kruczek declared. He said normally these contracts with completion deadlines allow an interruption when winter sets in, and added, "The way this is written, I could be liable for that $500 a day fine all winter! I don't need the job that bad!"

Schmidt then moved to award the bid to the lowest qualifying bidder - which would be PTS. There was a second from Sievert, and the motion passed, with Berth casting the sole dissenting vote. Berth commented they were not saving the city any money. He sympathized with Kruczek, "These are different times...I can see why he did it."

After the vote, and as the meeting adjourned, Kruczek declared angrily, "...all I can say is if that thing goes over 40 days, I'll be watching, and I expect to see that $500 per day deduct!"




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