2017-09-21 / News

City’s Bid Policy Addressed Amid Miscommunication for Marina Dock Project

By Kevin R. Hess

The City of St. Ignace’s bidding policy for city projects was a topic of discussion at the regular meeting of the St. Ignace City Council Monday, September 18. The discussion was added to the agenda at the meeting and was prompted by a letter the council received from Gary McDonald, manager of Straits Building Center, and its employees, concerning the bidding process for the St. Ignace Marina dock project, which is being funded by a grant from Enbridge Energy. Materials have already been purchased and received for the work at the marina, set to begin this week, and Mr. Mc- Donald said Tuesday morning that his company has accepted the decision without ill will after registering its concerns with the city. As a result of Monday’s discussion, city department heads will all receive a copy of the city’s bidding policy to help prevent any future misunderstandings of the process.

Mr. McDonald said his frustration that prompted the letter was with the lack of communication about the bidding process. He believes his bid was competitive, but says he was given no explanation for the decisions made. Members of the city council seemed equally as frustrated Monday night, saying that they did not give any approval to accept a bid. According to city policy, bids are to be sent to the council and opened at a regular city council meeting to be discussed and approved. In this case, the initial bids were earlier brought to the council, but no one on the council had given approval. Meanwhile, with a volunteer crew poised to begin the work at the docks this week, and a limited time frame to take advantage of the labor, Marina Director Mike Singleton said, a timely decision was needed, and Mr. Singleton said that the approval of choosing one bid came from City Manager Les Therrian.

Mr. Singleton acknowledged that he was given a copy of the city’s policy, but he did not receive it until Friday, September 8, well after the decision had been made to accept a bid. The policy states that city council is to approve of the bids, and that the city manager can make a recommendation to the council concerning bids.

Said Mayor Connie Litzner on Tuesday: “Mike brought the initial bids to the council, and we told him to make sure that he approached the local businesses to give them an opportunity to bid. Approval to accept a bid was not given to him by the council. He didn’t receive any information on the bidding policy until after decisions had already been made.”

When Mr. Therrian gave Mr. Singleton the approval to go ahead, Mr. Singleton said, he believed he was okay to continue. He does not believe they were unfair to anyone.

“We received multiple bids before the deadline, and the policy states that we must seek at least three competitive bids,” said Mr. Singleton. “We did that. We received some bids after the deadline. Straits Building Center was one of those, and that was after multiple telephone calls to them.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Steven Paquin, who presided over Monday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Litzner, and Councilman Paul Fullerton also pointed out that the council had earlier made it clear that Straits Building Center should be notified of the project and given a bid packet with the proper specifications. The company did bid on it, but in his letter Mr. McDonald said he was not informed of the project in the beginning, and he believed that his business did not have a fair opportunity to bid.

At the meeting Monday, Councilman Jim Clapperton said a clear bid policy is needed, but Mr. Therrian said that there was a clear policy in place.

“What do we do, then?” asked Councilman Jay Tremble. “We can’t just send all the materials back, or we’re going to have to pay large shipping or return fees.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Paquin said that the policy must be re-issued to all department heads so they are aware of how bidding is supposed to be handled and this situation can be avoided in the future. All council members expressed frustration with the situation and stated that it was important to give local businesses the same opportunity as anyone else to bid on city projects. Mr. Clapperton suggested a formal letter of apology to be written and sent to Straits Building Center. He will draft one, and all council members will sign it.

The company chosen to supply the marina project is out of Grandville, and Mr. Singleton said there were several reasons for choosing their bid. He believed they understood the scope of the project and bid to provide the number one grade southern pine lumber, were donating more than $2,600 in equipment, and were providing free shipping and a representative to teach them how to use the equipment. The donation was for six Edge Pro Collated Edge Deck Fastening Systems.

“For the same equipment, a more local company’s bid was $15,000 more than what we received from Grandville,” said Mr. Singleton.

Mr. Singleton said the lumber being replaced is going to be repurposed and used in other city projects, and that the company providing the materials will promote the work being done here on its Web site and social media pages, netting some promotion of the St. Ignace marina.

“We’re going to get a lot of promotion through this project,” said Mr. Singleton. “People all over the state are going to see the improvements being done at the marina and that will only help to bring people to St. Ignace.”

Volunteers will be on hand Thursday, September 21, to begin removing the current wooden planks and preparing for the installation of the new ones.

Other Council Business

Bids were received for a new truck for Bill Fraser in his new position as Department of Public Works director. Five bids from three car dealers were opened and reported. The bids were for a Ford F150 4x4. Mackinac Ford submitted two bids for $27,250 and $29,155. Fernelius Ford of Cheboygan submitted a bid for $30,176, and O’- Connors of Pickford submitted bids for $39,680 and $40,280. All bids were for Ford F150 trucks. The prices varied depending on the size of the truck bed and the wheelbase.

Police Chief Mark Wilk reported that first responders, 911 and ambulance crews, have requested a review of home and business address numbering after they had trouble finding some homes that were not properly numbered. City ordinance requires that numbers face the street and be no less than three inches in height. Chief Wilk wants to remind residents and businesses to make sure their homes and buildings are properly marked. City officers will be assigned sections of St. Ignace to patrol and make sure people are in compliance with the ordinance. For people who may be physically unable to display numbers due to disabilities, a work crew from the Mackinac County Jail may be used to help rectify the problem.

Chief Wilk also inquired about the chain of command while both Mr. Therrian and new city manager Michael Stelmaszek are employed at the same time. The council said the current chain of command will remain in place until Mr. Therrian is officially retired. Mr. Clapperton noted that Mr. Stelmaszek will be in town Thursday, September 21, for an informal opportunity for people to meet him at City Hall in the morning. He invited anyone who wanted to meet Mr. Stelmaszek to come out and do so.

The city will vacate a 20-foot wide alley located near Hombach Street and Edison Moore and Company’s Plat. Council had vacated a lot in 2003, but it was recently discovered that they vacated the wrong lot. This resolution was offered to correct that mistake.

The city council recommended that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission issue a class C liquor license to William and Yong Hua McNamee of St. Ignace, who have declared their intent to renovate the former Chinese restaurant at 416 North State Street. Their plan is to open a new Chinese restaurant at that location. Renovations have already begun on the property.

Mr. Therrian told council of a building that has been designated “dangerous” by building inspector Brian Olsen. The owner of the building disagrees with the designation and has not responded to a letter from the city. City attorney Tom Evashevski said their options are for the city to pay for the work themselves and then either leverage a heavy assessment or go to court in hopes of receiving a judgment, go to court to force work to be done by the owner, or issue daily citations. Councilman Luke Paquin asked if there was any way to speed up the process, perhaps with a stronger ordinance, saying that taking six months to solve the issue is not a good solution for the city. Mr. Evashevski said he didn’t believe there was anything else to do except to enforce the ordinance already in place. He says it is in the city’s best interest to take action soon.

“Once people know that we are taking action, we will get a lot more compliance” with blight concerns, he said.

The issue is expected to be on the council agenda for October 16 to give the owner an opportunity to respond.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 2, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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