The Barton County Commission Monday morning voted to award Bridges Inc., a Newton-based company, the contract to make much-needed repairs to the Arkansas River bridge south of Ellinwood. Replaced will be the expansion joints which allow the bridge deck to expand and contract with the changes in temperature. The joints rusted and are stuck in the expanded position.
So, the work needs to be done.
However, there is a little more to the story. Also bidding for the project was L&M Contractors of Great Bend. Bridges Inc. bid $132,450 and L&M bid $133,965, a difference of $1,900.
Bridges Inc. would start on Nov. 18 and be done by Feb. 2, 2014. L&M would have started Nov. 15 and been done by Dec. 31.
Technically, the low bidder was Bridges Inc., the same contractor that replaced the pin and hanger assemblies for the Ellinwood bridge and Radium Road bridge over the Arkansas previously and has a good working relationship with Barton County.
By state law, municipal governments are required to take the low bid, but there is some wiggle room. If a local bidder is close, it can be selected to handle the project, even if a tad higher.
But, although it was noted that L&M was a local company, all of the Bridges Inc. employees working on this project will be from Great Bend, and the company has other ties to the community as well.
By this definition of local, any chain store or business in town would be considered local. Sure, their employees live here, as do their managers, but the company profits are spent elsewhere. And, where do they pay their property taxes, additional revenue that supports the local government.
Yes, the county saved $1,900, but perhaps that extra could have gone a long ways to building more community good will. Sometimes it is about more than the bottom line.