Replacement of a storm drainage box culvert along Beech Street will likely be delayed after the Longview City Council rejected all the contract bids last week and voted to re-advertise the project.

City staff, during Thursday’s City Council meeting, recommended the council reject the lowest bidder, C & R Tractor & Landscaping, Inc., because the Kelso contractor did not meet requested qualifications.

The project would replace a culvert along Beech Street between 21st and 28th avenues. When the city initially advertised the project, it required 10,000 feet of pipe installation experience from the prime contractor, subcontractors or a combination of both, Public Works Director Jeff Cameron told the council Thursday.

However, after the project went out to bid, city staff decided it was important that the prime contractor alone meet the experience qualifications — not subcontractors. All bidders were then required to submit documentation showing the prime contractor had installed at least 5,000 feet of piping in the last 10 years. (The city reduced the total requirement from 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet to ensure it wasn’t prohibitively restrictive, Cameron said.)

C & R Tractor & Landscaping, whose bid was $2.19 million, could not meet these new requirements, Cameron said. Therefore, city staff recommended accepting the second lowest bid of $2.3 million from Advanced Excavating Specialists (AES), LLC, of Longview.

Cameron told the council that it is common for the city to adjust requirements after the project goes out to bid. The council is only hearing about this instance, he said, because C & R chose to appeal the decision.

Councilman Mike Wallin and Cameron had an extended exchange Thursday night, during which Wallin said the city was “moving the goalpost” for the bidders.

Representatives of C & R were not present Thursday, but Longview insurance agent Randy Walker spoke in support of the company.

“(C & R) is growing at a rapid pace because everything they touch … they’re invited back to do the next job,” Walker told the council. “Their track record is stellar.”

Mike LaFave, one of the owners of AES, said 75 percent of contract jobs have requirement adjustments after the project has gone out to bid.

“I’ve been doing this for 43 years. We’ve owned this (company) for 10 years, and this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in my life. You take the recommendations of your own department, and you’re throwing them out the window? That’s embarrassing to me,” LaFave said, referring to the council’s decision to send the contract out for bid a second time.

The council voted to put the project back out to bid, with Councilwoman MaryAlice Wallis opposed and Councilman Ken Botero absent.

Cameron said it would likely cost the city about $700 to advertise the project again.

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