City explains ‘miscommunication’ that led to $150,000 error

Miscommunication about a bidder’s position has resulted in that bidder not receiving the contract to demolish a downtown Middletown building and increasing the costs of the project by more than $150,000.

MORE: Middletown will pay more for theater’s demolition

Middletown City Council Tuesday approved a motion to grant a contract to Vickers Demolition for $485,000 after a motion to grant the contract to the apparent lowest bidder, Brunk Excavating, failed to get a second on a motion for that contract. Brunk submitted a bid of $327,000, while Logan Creek submitted a $433,000 bid on the project. Bids were opened on Dec. 20, 2017.

City Manager Doug Adkins said in January the city opted to do one final Requests for Proposals cycle in an attempt to redevelop the building. However, no RFP bids were submitted and the city moved to begin demolition of the Studio Theater with Brunk contacted to do the demolition.

Adkins said Brunk reportedly had timing issues and relayed they were unsure they would hold their December bid price.

“Upon further review, I haven’t found documentation to verify this,” Adkins said. “Based on the info relayed that bid price would not be held and they couldn’t start until sometime in June, we bypassed Brunk and went to Logan the second bidder.”

Adkins said with ongoing water damage to Liberty Spirits, which is connected to the former theater building, the city needed the project to start as soon as possible.

He said references with Logan Creek could not be confirmed, so the project went to Vickers, the third bidder.

Adkins said the city gave the notice to proceed with environmental abatement but did not get the contract to council for final approval.

Explore PHOTOS: See inside the former Studio Theater in Middletown

“As preparations were made to bring the contract to council for this meeting, the miscommunication on Brunk’s position arose, and I got directly involved to find out where we really were supposed to be,” Adkins said. “At the end of the discussion, I have staff, Vickers and Brunk all with different versions of what happened and not enough documentation to support any particular version with certainty.”

He said with no clear documentation to rely on, he had to fall back to lowest and best bid which was Brunk. Adkins said that Vickers was understandably angry at the decision and that he placed the Brunk contract on the Motion Agenda for council consideration. He said the goal is to go with the lowest and best bid, but City Council can award a contract to company with a higher bid amount.

“It’s not a good situation, but again I cannot bring you a $157,000 higher bid extra because of a communication error by my staff with taxpayers dollars,” Adkins said.

He said the city could re-start the bidding process which could take another 60 to 90 days and the city would have to pay Vickers for the work already completed.

“I know its more money, but I don’t think its right,” said Councilman Steve Bohannon, who is also a contractor.

ExploreMORE: What’s next for the 90-year-old Studio Theater in downtown Middletown?

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from Vickers complained to council about the matter and said they had already incurred expenses doing some of the preliminary preparations and outsourced some of the asbestos abatement work. They said this would jeopardize the city’s relationship with their company, which has done demolition work for the city in the past.

Council opted not to second the motion for Brunk, and voted 4-0 on the motion for Vickers, with Vice Mayor Talbott Moon abstaining due to a conflict of interest. The demolition is expected to be completed by the end of May, Adkins said.

ExploreMORE: 2 new uses considered for former Middletown theater

When asked if anyone will be disciplined for the errors made, Adkins said that will be handled internally.

Adkins said there are always dangers when you deviate from standard operating procedure and there was no good solution to the situation.

“In this case, we were trying to mitigate water damage to the adjacent structure by getting someone on-site as quickly as possible,” he said. “When you jump into special situations, this can happen.”

Adkins said the city has already spent $12,000 in previous work to stop the water damage until we could demolish. He said the heavy spring rains created a new problem and the estimate to divert the new water problem was $30,000 to 50,000.

“You make the best decisions you can with the information available at the time,” Adkins said. “This was truly a unique situation. Any other time, we would have rejected all bids or started over or just delayed demolition while we re-evaluated the entire situation. I didn’t have the luxury of time to do that in this case.”

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