A $270K Piece of Paper
It's been said the devil is in the details, and that's certainly the case as Western Illinois University prepares to tear down an old dorm.
The lowest bidder for the demolition of Wetzel Hall -- Dore & Associates Contracting, Inc of Bay City, MI -- is registered with the state of Illinois. But instead of filing a copy of that certificate as required by the bidding process, the company filed a copy of the cover letter that came with the certificate.
“Our chief procurement officer and his legal counsel have ruled that is insufficient evidence, that instead they must produce the actual certificate and not just the cover letter,” said Dana Biernbaum, WIU Assistant Vice President for Administrative Services. “
The company's bid was around $1.2 million.
The second lowest bid of nearly $1.4 million came from Homrich, Inc of Chicago. Like Dore, Homirch is registered with the state -- but also like Dore, it made a mistake with the paperwork. It filed a screen print from a state website that shows it is registered.
“Once again our chief procurement officer refused to accept that as sufficient evidence of their registration,” Biernbaum said.
As a result of the mistakes, Western is prepared to hire the third lowest bidder, which is Brandenburg Industrial Service Company of Chicago. It submitted a bid of nearly $1.5 million.
“So, to sum this up for you, it became a $270,000 piece of paper,” Biernbaum told the WIU Board of Trustees.
BoT Chair William Epperly called the situation “asinine,” especially at a time when the state is struggling with its finances.
Western is appealing the matter to the Illinois Attorney General's office. The university hopes for an informal opinion within a week, but a formal opinion could take much longer -- and there is no guarantee the formal opinion would favor WIU.
“It might still go back to the lifelong bureaucrats who are making these decisions and they might still say no,” said David Steelman, WIU Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations.
WIU needs an answer quickly because Wetzel Hall is slated for demolition this summer. The university said whichever company gets the project will need some time to prepare for it.
The BoT agreed to award the work to Brandenburg but gave WIU President Jack Thomas the authority to hire Dore or Homrich if the state issues an opinion in the university's favor.