SHADYSIDE — Litman Excavating & Construction is challenging Shadyside Village Council’s decision in February to award a bid for a water upgrade to Ohio-West Virginia Excavating.
During a bid protest hearing Monday following regular business, Litman’s attorney, Erik Schramm Jr., argued that the bid criteria was, in reality, non-competitive. Council heard Schramm’s argument and set a special meeting for 6 p.m. next Monday to make a decision.
Litman had made a lower bid of $973,434 compared to Ohio-West Virginia’s bid of $1,034,265, but council accepted Ohio-West Virginia’s as the lowest “and best” bid.
The project is an extensive one, including 76 new valves to isolate different areas of the village in order to shut off water service in a particular area in the event of a line break. In addition, a 12-inch line will be run from wells on the opposite side of the railroad tracks to replace one dating from 1965.
Shadyside dealt with depressurization issues in 2018, and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandated an upgrade. The village has received several extensions on the OEPA order, including one this year.
Schramm opened with several questions about the decision-making process and council’s relationship with ADR & Associates, the engineering firm that recommended Litman.
Council members were largely unresponsive and Councilman Nick Ferrelli said council would hear the protest, not answer questions. Schramm referred to minutes from prior council meetings, where members expressed dissatisfaction with ADR for not including information about Village Resolution 749 in prior bid packets, which specifies village criteria for determining the lowest and best bid. Mayor Bob Newhart and Village Attorney Thomas Ryncarz agreed this was the case. The resolution had been in existence since 2010.
Schramm challenged the criteria that council used to evaluate the bids.
“Council decided it was in their best interest to award to Ohio-West Virginia over $60,000 more of the public fund because they thought Ohio-West Virginia was best?” Schramm asked.
“Yes,” Ferrelli said. “We have the discretion to make the determination.”
Ryncarz referred to prior discussion in which council members favored a local workforce and keeping public money in the state of Ohio.
Ferrelli said Ohio Revised Code gives municipalities the authority to determine lowest and best bidder.
“Based on what?” Schramm asked. “What formula did you apply to decide that a workforce from Belmont County was more beneficial to spend $60,500 more money of Ohio Public Works Commission money? Was there any formula used, or was it just your feelings?”
Schramm asked if any other contractor could meet the bid if a requirement was a predominantly Belmont County workforce.
“If there’s no other contractor that could beat the bidding requirements, then it truly wasn’t a competitive bid, and you all blew through the competitive bid process … to give it to somebody you knew, whose references you didn’t check,” Schramm said, adding that Litman provided eight references.
Ranae Teasdale, assistant water and sewer superintendent, said there were only three jobs in the eight references. She added that Ohio-West Virginia had done previous work around the village.
Schramm said the bid was not competitive and did not meet OPWC requirements.
Sue Ferrelli, a member of the Board of Public Affairs, said considerable research was done into what constituted the “best” bid.
“I don’t like the fact that you’re insinuating that Ohio-West Virginia got the bid because we are friends with them,” she said. “Ohio-West Virginia has done a lot of work in this village. We know what kind of work they do. … I didn’t collect any official references … but I can just say I heard from people in other villages that they were not happy with the work Litman did.”
Schramm added that since Litman could not know having a predominantly Belmont County workforce would be a requirement, the company spent time and money preparing bids and getting a bond for a job it could not win.
“That’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not why the OPWC insists you bid projects. It’s public funds.”
Schramm added that by now, the bids good for 60 days have run out and bids will have to be reworked with costs likely be higher due to inflation and supply chain issues, so he said it was incumbent on the village to come to a decision. He urged council to end the delay and award Litman the bid.
Afterward, Schramm did not speculate on whether Litman might take legal or action should council not reconsider.
“Prior to taking any legal action, we have to have a bid protest. Council gets to reconsider their decision. After that, then my client will make a decision,” he said. “We’re saving the village $60,000. We hope we get the bid.”