Plain City plans to restart the bidding process for a halted construction project in the village.
After the company was contracted to do the work, they walked off the job and the village was left with the beginnings of a structure that was never built.
In the spring of 2017, a resolution went to council which would award Blaine Builders, a contracting company out of Urbana, the building project to construct a pole-barn at 223 Central Ave. for the purposes of storing equipment and vehicles for the streets and water and sewer departments.
A number of bids came into the village and typically the project is awarded to the lowest bidder. In this case, the lowest bidder didn’t respond to all contract requirements and wasn’t considered, taking the contract to the next lowest on the list — Blaine Builders.
The bid came in just under $250,000. It was approved by village administrator, Kevin Vaughn, before going to council.
“It went through the normal three readings that every resolution has to do,” said mayor Darrin Lane. “And in Resolution 17-17, council authorized the administrator to go forward with the contract.”
Vaughn, however, said that in accepting the bid, some mistakes were made and not everyone signed off on the contract.
“The company didn’t have a bond,” he said. “And that was a mistake to move forward with.”
The contractors began the project, having poured concrete footers at the site. After some issues getting them to set, progress began to slow.
“They quit performing duties on the job and subsequently filed for bankruptcy,” Vaughn said.
Eventually, Vaughn was given a “written reprimand” by the mayor for approving the company and said he takes full responsibility for missing the information. He also added the village is already working on policies and procedures to ensure better oversight.
“This will never happen again and we’re making sure that is the case,” said Vaughn.
Where does the village stand?
Although attorneys are looking into the situation, Vaughn said no lawsuit has been filed. In the litigation, the village is being represented by solicitor, Paul-Michael Lafayette.
“The owner of the business filed for bankruptcy and then his company filed for bankruptcy a few months later,” Lafayette said. “We are currently in litigation with the company and essentially have two options.” The village can see what portions of funds they can get from the bankruptcy case or they can pursue separate litigation against the company.
“Whichever route we go, I can see it taking up to a year to get the full picture,” said Lafayette.
Since the project began but is currently unfinished, the question remains: has the village now lost money in the process?
“The village paid the company initially but they did not receive the second half of the contract,” Lafayette said. The company was originally given $124,967 to purchase materials plus addition money for change orders to correct issues with setting the footers — all work which was performed by the company. “So if there is a loss, it’s certainly under the $150,000 paid to the company, even under $100,000 and probably more below that.” When you factor in what work was completed and what could be recovered as a result of the litigation, he added, the money isn’t a loss.
Although the litigation is going on, the village does not have to wait for the results in order to get the project back up and running.
“We’re going to start the bidding process again,” Vaughn said. “We have probably 90 percent of the building materials and with the exception of things that need to be replaced, we will be utilizing what was already purchased.” Project funds originally came out of the Street Department’s Operations Fund and the second half of the contract money that wasn’t paid to Blaine Builders is still in the account and will go toward completing the project.
The village engineer is currently working on bid specifications, so the actual bidding process hasn’t gone out but Vaughn said the village is looking to “finish this soon.”
With Lafayette’s help, a checklist was created to be utilized before contracts are approved. The village is also ensuring that more than just a handful of people are involved with the decision.
“We want to make sure these contracts and approvals are looked over by people on all levels,” Lafayette added. “We’re going to include everyone, from legal to administrative to fiscal.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.