The Barton Community College Board of Trustees approved a local firm’s low bids on two concrete parking lot projects on Thursday, but not before another local contractor voiced displeasure over not being asked for a bid.
Suchy Construction was awarded the bid to replace the southwest Physical Education building parking lot and road and the Administration building parking lot, for a total of $484,869. There were also bids totaling $542,205 from Concrete Service Inc. The projects include addressing drainage issues for the track/soccer area, as well as curb and gutter replacements. Both firms are located in Great Bend.
Kip Spray, president of Venture Corp., said his firm is doing paving projects around the state, but the first time he heard about the parking lot jobs at BCC was on April 6, when he read a Great Bend Tribune article saying the bid opening had taken place (on April 4). “Our company knew nothing about it,” Spray said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get an invitation to bid and I want to know why.”
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said Dean of Administration Mark Dean followed the college process for bidding projects. He notified local concrete contractors of the project and ran a notice in the Tribune’s classified ads (on March 29).
Dean said DMA Architects, the college architect, developed specifications and asked for concrete contractors. “I looked in the phone book and also put it in the paper,” Dean said. “I didn’t know Venture did concrete.”
Venture isn’t listed among “concrete contractors” in the local Yellowbook, but the Great Bend firm’s ad under “paving contractors” says its services include “asphalt & concrete paving.”
Spray also wanted to know why the college no longer alternates paving projects between concrete and asphalt. The PE parking lot is over 40 years old, he said, adding “I believe had we continued to do the college’s maintenance eight years ago, you wouldn’t have to replace it.”
“Our architect believes concrete will serve us better for this application,” Dean said.
“You should award to local bidders,” Spray told trustees. He presented each trustee with a notebook that included some history of the 40-year-old firm’s relationship with the college, and photos that compared concrete and asphalt roads.
“For years Venture maintained roads for the college at little or no cost,” Spray said. The relationship soured sometime in the last decade, with Spray citing instances where firms in other counties or states were awarded paving contracts that he said should have gone to local bidders.
Spray said he did not want the board to rebid the current project, which would be unfair to those who submitted bids, and he was happy to see the work going to a local firm. He asked that the college contact Venture when future paving bids are taken.
Later in the meeting, trustees awarded the bids. Trustee Don Learned voted “no” after saying he had wanted to board to start over on the bidding process.
“I feel really badly about this whole situation,” Learned said.
Other trustees indicated they would like to revisit the college policy on seeking bids in the future.
“I would certainly support local venders on any purchase at the college,” trustee Brett Middleton said. “We should have a list of anybody that wants to be included on bids.”
“I’d like to make sure Venture is on the lists,” trustee Mike Minton said. “In the future, make sure everybody is included.”
Trustee John Moshier pointed out that the protocol was followed. “I know the college didn’t intend to slight any company or business,” he said.
Chairman Mike Johnson said the trustees will revisit the procedures, and they do appreciate all local businesses, including Venture. “I have confidence in Mark Dean and his processes,” Johnson said.