Bidder questions fairness of county’s bidding process

A representative of a company that submitted the low bid for asphalt sealing oil last week asked Osage County commissioners Monday for an explanation of why they chose the other, higher bid submitted.

Larry Reddick, of Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions, Inc., told commissioners his company had four plants in Kansas and asked why “you took the high bid from a Missouri company.”

Last week, commissioners reviewed two bids, one from Vance Brothers, of Kansas City, Mo., and the other from Ergon, of Kansas City, Kan. The bids were for 110,000 gallons of the road sealing oil, which is used during the county’s chip and seal road projects, and demurrage charges. Demurrage is charged by the companies by the hour for time a truck has to wait to unload over two hours. Ergon bid $2.12 per gallon for the product and $80 an hour demurrage, and Vance bid $2.13 per gallon and $70 an hour demurrage.

Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer first responded, “The company Ergon replaced or whatever, we didn’t have a very good experience with them.”

Reddick indicated that his company had acquired Sims Materials through that company’s bankruptcy, but said that county’s former relationship with Sims should have no bearing on Ergon’s bid.

“How does a previous owner have anything to do with Ergon?” Reddick asked. “I never worked for Sims Material … they’re a completely different entity. So for anybody to say there is any affiliation between Ergon and Sims Materials, that’s just ludicrous.”

Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said the commissioners had not only considered the price on the material specified, but also other types of oil offered by Vance in its bid.

“They bid three or four different things, so we could mix and match and so some of theirs were cheaper,” Kuykendall said. “And you were only one penny cheaper than them on one product, and their demmurage charge was $10 an hour less and demurrage does become an issue with us frequently. So when you look at demurrage and stuff, too, they were very close bids.”

Reddick noted that although the bid was one penny a gallon cheaper, it represented a $1,100 savings on 110,000 gallons. He said his company followed the bid specifications to submit the bid, and did not include other products because the county did not request bids on them. He said other counties are known to reject bids that don’t adhere to the bid specs, but his company could have offered other products, too. He said the demurrage charge is dependent on how long trucks need to wait to unload, and at the bid $10 extra per hour, the estimated 2o truckloads of materials would need to wait numerous hours to make up the difference in product cost.

County counselor Caleb Crook defended the commissioners’ decision, saying all of the information provided by the companies was equally considered.

“This was most reasonable value bid and savings based on commissioners’ analysis with advice of road and bridge supervisor, and with demurrage put in and ability to use other chemicals as part of same price,” Crook said. “And frankly the history of problems with delivery of material was considered.”

“There’s been no history,” Reddick said.

“Well, the history of plants involved with that delivery system,” Crook said.

Glen Tyson, county road and bridge supervisor, explained to Osage County News later that a few years ago, Sims Materials was awarded the bid for road oil, but due to the company’s financial situation, it did not deliver the products as promised. He said Vance helped the county in that situation by delivering product.

Meyer confirmed to Reddick that the county’s established a working relationship with Vance was a factor in the decision.

“They helped us out and we appreciated that they did,” Meyer said.

Kuykendall told Reddick the county was not required to take the low bid.

“We don’t want to discourage you from bidding in the future,” Kuykendall said, “and about the past history of your company, I’ll take your comments to heart in the future. I appreciate your comments that your company is not the previous company.”

“How do we get the chance to show you the value we bring to the table?” Reddick asked. “Where do we go in the future? We got four plants in Kansas. We ought to get some consideration for dollars staying in Kansas versus going out of state. I want to know I’m being treated fairly and you guys are going to look at our bid for what it is.”

“If that gives you any comfort, next year it won’t be a consideration,” Kuykendall said of the county’s dealings with Sims Materials.

Kuykendall encouraged Reddick to contact Tyson prior to bidding next year to understand the county’s needs.

Reddick said he still believed his company offered the lower bid.

“How do I know how to bid, lower demurrage, two cents lower? How much cheaper do I have to go?” he asked.

“You figure that out,” Meyer told Reddick.

Osage Commissioner Gaylord Anderson told Reddick he should have been at the meeting when commissioners selected the bid.

“If you’d been here that day it would have helped us understand,” Anderson said.

Also during the April 1 meeting, commissioners heard again from Eileen Smith, of Burlingame, who requested the county commission intercede in the city of Burlingame’s plans to demolish two buildings on Santa Fe Avenue. Commissioners told Smith they had no authority over Burlingame’s actions.

“We don’t have a dog in this fight,” Kuykendall said. “The county can’t tell the city what to do.”

Smith said the city of Burlingame had violated laws and commissioners had the responsibility to citizens to investigate. With commissioners continuing to reject becoming involved in the city’s actions, Smith told them they still had freedom of speech even if they didn’t have authority.

“Even county commissioners can write a letter and state there’s a concern,” Smith said. “Don’t dump your responsibility on me.”

“I haven’t dumped anything on you, ma’am, and neither have the other two commissioners,” Kuykendall said.

“You keep saying we’re doing something, we’re not doing a damn thing,” Anderson said.

“You are with your inaction,” Smith said.

“We appreciate your passion on this, and I really wish you luck, but I’m tired of this conversation and move to adjourn,” Anderson said. “You come down here wanting us to do something we don’t have a right to do, so I don’t know why we’re sitting here after 45 minutes talking about it.”

Crook advised Smith that unless criminal laws had been broken, the issue was a civil matter and she would need to involve the district court if she wanted an injunction or other action against the city.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas