Douglas County commissioners rejects all sewer plant bids
After listening to attorneys argue for 90 minutes over whether the low bid for the North Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant was legal, Douglas County commissioners told public works on Thursday to start over.
According to Jeffery Spencer, the attorney for No. 2 bidder KG Walters, state law required the low bidder to have an unlimited bond limit when the bid was submitted.
“At the time, they had a bid limit of $4.5 million, and their bid was for $9 million,” Spencer said. “They were not properly licensed when this bid was awarded.”
Low bidder Farr Construction attorney John Moore argued that because a representative of the Nevada Contractor’s Board told them they could backdate the bond so it would be effective when the bids were open.
Moore said Farr was licensed at the time of the bid, but that its bid limit was at $4.5 million.
“They were told had to fulfill one condition, they had to get a bond, and were given a grace period, so to speak, within 30 days,” Moore said.
The county had hoped the contractor’s board would clarify the issue, but a letter from the board’s attorney said the issue still was under investigation.
“The board takes no position on how any of the events discussed may or may not affect the validity of a bid on a public works project,” said attorney Noah Allison in a letter to the county.
Moore also argued the bid wasn’t governed by state law because federal money is going to help expand the plant.
He said that federal law allows the contractor to have its qualifications in place prior to award of the contract, which occurred on Dec. 12, 2017.
Engineer Nick Charles told commissioners that contractors licensed to work in Nevada are required to post a bond with the state contractor’s board.
The issue with Farr’s bid was that it was approved pending the increase in its bond, which didn’t actually happen until after the bids were opened.
“Really the issue at hand is what is the valid date of their license increase,” he said.
Charles said that in the six years he’s worked for Public Works, he’s never seen a protest, but he knows they do happen.
“This is very interesting,” he said. “In conversations with the state contractor’s board, they said they’ve never seen something like this.”
Commissioner Nancy McDermid said she wished the contractor’s board had provided more information.
“It is muddled, and the most difficult time to make a decision is when you have two good choices,” she said. “I do wish the contractor’s board had been more clear in their letter. They have not helped the situation, they have muddled it even more.”
She said she didn’t like delaying the project or requiring staff to put the project back out to bid, but that it was in the best interest of the county to send it back out.