The business representative of a local labor union has raised questions at a recent Oregon school board project about the low bid for the technology portion of the Eisenhower Intermediate School’s auditorium renovation project.
Ken Fischer, a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8, which represents 2,000 members, said he wanted the board to look further at Muzak of Toledo, which submitted the lowest bid for the project at $59,949.
“Our concern is…one bid is very, very low, less than half of some of the other bids. We would like the board to thoroughly examine that, if you haven’t done that already,” said Fischer. “In construction, when a bid is that much out of whack, it kind of tips the hat that something was missed, or something is being compromised in quality of specs. I’d like to ask the board to thoroughly review that portion of that job and consider that bid is way out of line with the other bids.”
Other bids on the project include $107,269 submitted by Lake Erie Electric, and $138,112 submitted by Transtar Security and Technologies.
“I’m sure you guys cross paths with a lot of these contractors,” School Board President P.J. Kapfhammer said to Fischer. “Do you have any reason to believe that Muzak isn’t going to fulfill the contract?”
“Some of the contractors that I know of that bid this project said the material was more than what Muzak’s bid was,” said Fischer. “That’s where I would ask you to touch base with those contractors to make sure that everybody is bidding the same specs, the same quality of material that’s being installed in that system.”
Kapfhammer said Muzak’s bid had already been reviewed.
“We reached out to Muzak. They reaffirmed to us that they are ready to do the work and it’s based on the specs that were bid out,” said Kapfhammer.
He added that there was a wide disparity in all three bids.
Transtar Security and Technologies bid $31,000 more than Lake Erie Electric.
“I haven’t seen a lot of this. Usually, when I’m bidding, and I bid on million dollar jobs, they’re usually real close to each other,” said Kapfhammer, who owns Maumee Bay Turf Center. The $80,000 difference between Muzak and Lake Erie Electrical, he added, was unusual.
“I don’t know where the loss in translation was. I know all these companies. This is the world they walk in, and they all bid based on specs. They know they’re going to be held to those specs. The contract is signed based on those specs. [Muzak] underbid it. But they’re willing to fulfill the contract that they bid on,” said Kapfhammer.
Fischer asked if school officials spoke to the three contractors that bid on the project.
Dean Sandwisch, director of business affairs for the district, said he spoke to Muzak after the bids were opened.
“The low bid was Muzak, so we reached out to them to make sure they understood exactly what they bid on,” said Sandwisch. “They were the only ones present at the bid opening.”
“Hopefully, the quality of work doesn’t diminish with the price,” said Fischer. “And that’s the fear with such a low bid. To even come in close to what was bid you would have to compromise either the installation techniques or the equipment.”
Kapfhammer said the equipment that was bid had been spec’d out.
“It’s going to be hard to get around that one,” said Kapfhammer. “Even though they said they bid it below the equipment price, that’s spec’d out and they will be held accountable for that. So it’s not even going to be a change order type of thing. We did our due diligence. Dean has been on top of this from the second we found out about it. We did see the variances. It’s a weird bid that you usually don’t see in this industry.”
“I would suggest that you touch base with all the contractors and specifically talk to them,” said Fischer. “You might gather a little bid more information on what they’re actually thinking about And sometimes the lowest bid is not always the best option.”
“That’s why it’s lowest and best,” Kapfhammer said of the criteria used by most communities when awarding bids. “To our knowledge, Muzak hasn’t done anything to eliminate them from being the lowest and best bid. They bid based on specs, and it was a sealed bid process. We followed up after we opened the bid.”
Board Member Jeff Ziviski said it was important to note that labor for the project will be paid with prevailing wages.
“One thing we’re confident about is we do use prevailing wage. So the labor is set by policy, and the equipment is set by the specs. We got a policy in place that requires prevailing wage, apprenticeships and all that stuff. And that’s how it’s bid,” said Ziviski.
“If the bid itself was done properly - it’s going to be hard for them to vary from those specs. You can’t change a spec once it’s been bid,” said Kapfhammer.
“And the money we’re saving, we can appropriate those funds to other things,” said Board Member Heather Miller. “It’s not that we’re getting the lesser quality product.”
“There’s no history that Muzak has done lesser quality,” said Kapfhammer. “Without any solid evidence to eliminate their bid, legally we have to follow the procedure.”
Kapfhammer said he was more concerned that only one electrical firm, Lake Erie Electric, bid on the electrical portion of the project.
“That’s even worse to me,” said Kapfhammer. “We have a lot of quality electrical firms in Northwest Ohio and I couldn’t imagine getting only one bid for that scope of work. It was not a small job. We had a bunch pick up the bid packets, but only one submitted a bid.”
“You can call me and I will do my due diligence to try and get more bids,” said Fischer.
The board approved bids for the entire renovation project, which cost $436,845.
The board approved the $155,286 architectural bid of Folding Equipment, the $185,815 electrical bid from Lake Erie Electric, and the $35,795 theater and stage equipment bid from Janson Industries.
. The board approved the bid of Muzak of Toledo by a vote of 4-1. Board Member Michael Csehi voted no.
“Their bid was very low compared to the other two and I felt they would have to make up the difference in quality of products or by not meeting prevailing wages,” said Csehi after the meeting. “Sometimes, if it looks too good, it probably is too good.”
Sandwisch said after the meeting that the board had previously hired Muzak to work on the PA system at Jerusalem Elementary School.