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County Road and Bridge HVAC bid OKed
Low bid accepted after issue prompted much debate
new deh county heater story pic
The Barton County Commission Monday morning approved a bid to replace the heating and air conditioning system in the Road and Bridge Department shop, pictured above. - photo by Tribune file photo

 The second time was a charm.

The Barton County Commission Monday morning approved a $39,500 bid from Rube’s Heating and Air Conditioning to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the county’s Road and Bridge Department shop. The project drew intense debate at two earlier commission meetings which led to the tossing out of all the original bids.

Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips said complications in the original bidding process forced the do-over. This time, new, more inclusive specifications were drafted. 

Prior to the second round, a pre-bid conference was held. “Several vendors show up,” Phillips said.

Ultimately, four qualifying proposals were received: Moeder Plumbing for $58,972; Comfort Pro for $56,920; A&F Enterprises for $54,320; and Rube’s for $39,500. Rube’s was not represented at the conference, but was allowed to bid anyway since the absence was due to extenuating circumstances.

The project includes the replacement of shop heaters and the installation of new heating, ventilation and air conditioning in selected work areas. Also included is the updating of the buildings original electrical system and the replacement of ceiling-mounted heaters in the service bay area.

Barry Stalcup of Comfort Pro expressed a concern that the low bid did not include the electrical work as required and that Rube’s was allowed to participate since the firm was not represented at the pre-bid meeting.

Phillips assured the commission that all the bids met the specs.

Commissioner Don Davis apologized to Stalcup and the other vendors. “We don’t want the other bidders to be upset with the county. We do appreciate all you do for us.”

But, “I have no apologies for saving 19 grand,” Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg said. 

Commissioner Alicia Straub voted for the low bid last time and agreed with Kruckenberg Monday. 

It was on March 9 the commission voted to toss out all four original proposals and rebid the project following nearly an hour of heated debate. But, the matter dated back to the previous Monday.

At that March 2 meeting, there was more discussion that centered around the decision to opt for a more traditional forced-air or a ductless system. The wording of the request for proposal caused the controversy when it specified forced-air, but left the door open for alternatives by including the verbiage “meet or exceed.”

Using specs drafted by M&F Plumbing of Great Bend, Phillips had sought the first bids. They received four proposals – A&F Enterprises of Hoisington, and Comfort Pro, Moeder Plumbing and Rube’s Heating and Air Conditioning, all of Great Bend.

The low bid of $42,585 came from Rube’s and called for the installation of a new-style Mitsubishi ductless system. Moeder presented the second lowest bid of $54,592 and involved a conventional duct-based unit.

A vote to approve the more expensive forced-air system stalled on a two-two vote, forcing the commission to table the matter until March 9.

It was determined then that the county couldn’t just rebid using the same specs since all the bids were known. So, it was decided to draw up new guidelines.

This time Rube’s adhered to the new bid specs and proposed a traditional, forced-air system.