A lengthy discussion over the replacement of a heating and air conditioning system in the Barton County Road and Bridge Department shop ended in a stalemate at the County Commission meeting Monday morning.
The decision to opt for a more traditional forced-air or a ductless system stalled on a two-two vote, forcing the commission to table the matter until it meets next Monday. The tie-breaking vote would have been in the hands of Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg, but he had to leave the meeting early to attend a funeral.
The project included the replacement of shop heaters and the installation of new heating, ventilation and air conditioning in selected work areas. Currently, there is no building-wide climate control and many of the units currently in use are over 20 years old, said Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips.
Also included is the updating of the buildings original electrical system and the replacement of ceiling-mounted heaters in the service bay area.
So, using specifications drawn up by M&F Plumbing of Great Bend, the Road and Bridge Department sought 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.
In the end, it was those project specs and the wording of the county’s request for proposals that were at the heart of the debate.
The RFP did ask for a traditional forced-air system, but left the door open to other possibilities by not limiting bidders to one brand of equipment and by requiring the bidders to “meet or exceed” the specifications.
Rube’s owner Brian Pedigo said his heat pump option fit the bill, even though it does not utilize duct work. It relies tubing and individual heating/cooling units to regulate the temperature.
The Mitsubishi system operates at 100 percent efficiency for heating and at higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating than required for cooling, he said. Plus it requires less work to install.
It may lose some efficiency when the temperature drops below 0, but it remains a viable choice, Pedigo said.
Alan Moeder questioned whether the heat pump was the best option considering the space involved and the loss of effectiveness in super-cold conditions. There were also concerns about susceptibility to dust and the additional maintenance.
However, merits of the two systems aside, it was the bid request and the specs that were troublesome to Moeder and Mike Herman of A&F Enterprises. “We should all have to bid apples for apples,” he said.
Although Herman’s bid of $57,370 was not under consideration Monday, he was on hand to express concerns about the bidding process.
“Everyone of us could do ductless,” he said. But, that is not what the RFP asked for and everyone should have bid the same thing.
“I followed the specs,” Herman said, adding he put in a lot of time arriving at his estimate.
“The other businesses had the chance to bid the same thing,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said.
The use of the word exceed was broad and open to interpretation, Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer said.
Phillips said they wrote the request with a conventional system in mind. He said they passed on hiring an engineer to come up with the specs due to the cost and that he stood behind their RFP.
Commissioners talked about reopening the bidding. But, with all the bids already on the table, this wasn’t fair.
“I still don’t know what we need,” said Commissioner Alicia Straub. She wanted more information on the shop and what was required.
It was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t vote for the commission. On one hand there was a savings of $12,000 with the low bid and on the other, there was a more time-tested forced-air system and the intent of the RFP.
It was a tough call, Schremmer said. But, such decisions are required of the commission.
It was Commissioner Don Davis who moved to accept the Moeder bid. With Kruckenberg gone, Schremmer stepped in and seconded the motion.
Davis and Schremmer voted for the Moeder bid and Schartz and Straub against it.