Bristol County Water Authority officials say a simple editing error, and not alleged collusion, forced them to re-bid their annual maintenance contract weeks after they had signed a contract with a winning bidder.
The yearly contract for underground line maintenance and repair work is usually awarded at the end of January, and that appeared to be the case this year. After the authority board opened sealed bids, contractor Ronald Moran of RMT Trucking in Warren appeared to have submitted the lowest bid, which was $26,000 less than the next lowest bidder — for the job. It was the first time Mr. Moran had won the contract, though he’d bid on it several previous years. John Lannan, the second lowest bidder, had reportedly won several of the most recent contracts. The third, highest bidder was East Coast Construction.
Mr. Moran said he signed a contract on Monday, Feb. 1, but soon after learned that the contract was being rescinded and the job re-bid. The reason he was given was that another bidder complained after the opening of the bids that there was a typo in the bid package; instead of specifying that the work would be completed during the 2013-14 fiscal year, the bid package incorrectly stated that the term would be the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“We responded with an e-mail requesting information on why it was rejected,” Mr. Moran said. “We never received a response.”
Later attempts to find out more information got nowhere, he said, though he said he suspects the bid was recalled since Mr. Lannan has won previous bids with the authority.
However, both BCWA board chairman Allan Klepper and BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand strongly disagree. The re-bid was solely the result of the typo, both said.
“That is absolutely ridiculous,” Mr. Klepper said of Mr. Moran’s statement. “Because the authority has been under so much magnification in the public eye, in an abundance of caution the decision by staff was made to re-bid. It is perfectly understandable that the low bidder would be upset.”
“There’s nothing underhanded going on,” Ms. Marchand added. “We obviously don’t want to re-bid anything; we want to get it out. But there was an error” in the bid package.
Ms. Marchand said the authority has not yet re-bid the contract, but plans are to do so over the next week or two.
Longer term, she said, the plan is to purchase backhoes or other comparable equipment which would allow the authority to do in-house the kind of work that is now done through the yearly contract. The authority has never had its own heavy equipment, she said, though it should.
“That’s the plan,” she said. She noted that the authority will probably solicit bids for the yearly maintenance contract even when a backhoe is purchased, as a backup plan.