Strict bidding rules are important on public works projects. They protect taxpayers, ensuring that contractors are qualified, prices are transparent and details are disclosed.
During bidding for the first phase of a $2 billion project to improve Sacramento’s wastewater infrastructure, a contractor failed to follow rules and was disqualified, but has filed suit seeking a second chance. A judge has temporarily delayed the project to hear the case (“Judge halts sewer storage project,” Our Region, March 21).
Significant delays could cost millions. Major errors in public bids cannot be ignored. That weakens a process designed to ensure responsibility. Moreover, ignoring them conveys that filing a lawsuit is a crutch for contractors who do not follow clear bidding rules.
Here are some important facts. All subcontractors were required to be licensed at the time of bid submission. Contractors were required to accurately list the percentage of work that subcontractors would perform. This ensures that work would be done to a high standard and protects subcontractors from bid shopping.
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Seven contractors submitted bids. Five fulfilled all requirements. Two submitted bids with a subcontractor that didn’t have a California license. One also misstated by 400 percent the amount of work to be done by the unlicensed subcontractor. Such a large discrepancy puts the subcontractor at risk.
The unlicensed subcontractor stated at a public meeting that it had been aware of this project since January 2013. But it did not apply for a California license until late October 2014, so was not licensed in California when the bid was submitted. The State Building & Construction Trades Council of California supported the requirement that subcontractors have a state license before submitting a bid.
After rejecting the disqualified bids, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District considered the five remaining proposals and awarded the project to Teichert Construction, which had submitted the lowest bid that met all requirements. Teichert’s bid of $113.8 million was more than $5 million lower than the district’s anticipated project cost.
Contractors that do not follow rules and then want the courts to excuse their mistakes undermine a system designed to assure accountability. The district should be commended for standing firm. Ratepayers benefit from their diligence.
Mary Rotelli is executive vice president and chief operating officer for Teichert Inc., based in Sacramento.