The city of Maryville granted a contract this week to Orr Construction Management of Grandview, which submitted the lowest of three bids for rebuilding Munn Avenue this summer between South Avenue and Route V.
Usually, the City Council follows the recommendation of municipal staff and awards such contracts with little debate. However, since Orr's bid was fairly close to another offer submitted by Loch Sand & Construction, a local company, the council paused to consider its options.
Breaking with custom, City Manager Greg McDanel opted not to recommend any of the bids, but simply presented them to the five-member council for its consideration.
Initially Mayor Glenn Jonagan said he had concerns about the methods and equipment Orr would use to pave the street, a major thoroughfare that constitutes the only access to Maryville High School.
Councilman Jeff Funston, who ended up being the sole vote against accepting Orr's bid, said he was "really concerned" about the company's ability to carry out the project.
City councils come and go, Funston said, "But bad projects we're stuck with forever." He then recalled the city's decision a few years ago to award a paving contract for the courthouse square to another out-of-town low-bidder.
"We had patched streets from day one," Funston said.
A third councilman, Jim Fall, expressed reservations as well.
Calling Munn Avenue the first "showcase project" for City Manager Greg McDanel and SK Design Group, which is engineering the street rebuild, Fall said it was "critical to get the best company for the job."
Councilwoman Renee Riedel, however, appeared to cut to the heart of the matter when she asked, "Are we bent out of shape because the low bid is not a local guy?"
"I think that's probably it," answered Jonagan.
Kenny Orr, whose company submitted the winning $2.1 million bid attended Monday's council meeting and defended his firm's ability to deliver the project on time and in accordance with specifications.
He said Orr Construction had been in business 34 years and had satisfactorily completed projects costing as much as $13 million.
He called the Munn Street reconstruction a "medium-sized project for us," and said he would personally serve as project manager.
One of the council's concerns revolved around the word "management" in the company's name, which Funston said he feared meant Orr would work entirely through subcontractors. Orr responded that this was not the case, and that about 30 percent of the personnel assigned to the Munn Street project would be his employees.
He went on to say that he recognized there was pressure on the council to go local.
"I know the politics here. I know where the push is coming from," Orr said. "We knew it before we submitted our estimate."
Page 2 of 2 - Funston, who said he wanted to continue checking Orr's performance on previous jobs, asked that the council table the contract decision, but his motion died for lack of a second. Fall then called for a vote to accept Orr's bid and was seconded by Riedel. The measure passed 4-1.
The Loch bid of $2.2 million exceeded Orr's by $79,000, which is above a 1 percent threshold that allows the council to favor local companies who fail to submit the low offer on major capital projects. A third bidder, M&M utilities, bid $2.3 million.
Jonagan said after the vote that he had received phone calls and emails questioning the ability of Orr's company to rebuild the street.
"My heart belongs to anyone from this city," he said. "It really does. On a project like this, that means local people being fed. But as long as we have a bid process, we have to do what's legal."
City Attorney Doug Thomson said that, by ordinance, the council is required to accept the "lowest and best bid" and so has the authority to reject offers that fail to meet "due diligence" checks and other standards.