A Newton company will be in charge of improvement to two crucial Barton County bridges, despite the interest shown by a local firm that set aside other business earlier to perform emergency repairs.
Barton County Commissioners, meeting Tuesday because of the holiday schedule, approved the low bid of $228,268.25 from Bridges, Inc., of Newton, for the replacement of pins and hangars on the Radium Road bridge and the Ellinwood bridge.
County Engineer Clark Rusco reported the project isn’t coming any too soon. The annual inspection, performed the day after the bids were opened on Dec. 14, showed that the Radium Road bridge had another broken pin.
Rusco explained earlier that the Road and Bridge Department responded to the Radium Bridge after the annual inspection show that there had been a pin failure and performed temporary repairs. “The railroad was nice enough to loan us some ties until we get it fixed,” Rusco said, adding the Road and Bridge crew built a base and then used the ties to shore up the bridge so it can’t shift where the pin has failed. “It’s completely supported now with railroad ties, so it’s good to go,” the county engineer commented earlier.
Commissioner John Edmonds, noting there was just a difference of $8,000 between the Newton firm’s bid and that from L&M Construction, the local firm that responded when damage to the bridges was discovered earlier. Edmonds commented that last year when emergency work was needed, L&M “pulled our cookies out of the fire.”
County Administrator Richard Boeckman explained that under state regulation, involving bridge work, the county either has to accept the low bid, or rebid the whole project, or try to get the Kansas Department of Transportation to approve accepting the higher bid and that would leave the county open to a charge being filed against it for the cost of preparing a bid by the firm that wasn’t chosen.
That is done on state transportation projects to insure the integrity of the bidding process, Boeckman explained.
“I understand the state is holding a gun against our head,” Edmonds acknowledged.
He suggested a 3 percent difference should not be enough to reject a local bid, especially involving a firm that responded when the county needed it.
Boeckman said he’s already met with a representative of L&M and while they would like the project, they understand the process and the county’s legal position.
Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said the commissioners wanted L&M to know how much the county officials appreciated the work that was done last year when the bridges had to be closed due to the broken pins. Thanks to L&M the bridges were open in time for the fall harvest.
Commissioners also noted that the Newton firm meets the requirements for the project and is not responsible for the state regulations.