The Clinton City Council hopes the solution has been found to complicated issues that surfaced after last week’s decision to award Foley Construction Co. the contract for Phase 1A of the combined sewer separation project.

The council met Tuesday evening to reconsider that decision, and after much discussion, determined it best to instead award the contract to Wheatland Contractors, Inc., of Naperville, Ill.

The resolution originally was considered at the Aug. 9 regular council meeting, but was tabled when At-large Councilman Ed O’Neill questioned the recommendation by Howard R. Green Co., the city’s consulting engineer, to go with Wheatland Contractors’ low bid of $312,400.52.

O’Neill felt that because a local company, Foley Construction Co., was such a close second with a bid only $1,624 greater, it should be given the contract instead. Foley is headquartered in Davenport and has a Clinton office.

A special meeting was held Thursday, during which O’Neill told the council that his research had determined Wheatland Contractors was not registered through Iowa Workforce Development at the time the bids were received, as stipulated by Howard R. Green in the request for bids.

Primarily for this reason, the council decided to award the contract to the second-lowest bidder, Foley Construction.

The following day, the city was informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not be participating in this phase of the project if the lowest bidder was not used, meaning a Special Infrastructure Grant of almost $172,000 could not be utilized.

The remainder of the project’s cost, a little more than $140,000, was to be provided by a State Revolving Fund through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This would likely have been revoked for the same reason.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Gil Janes of Howard R. Green apologized to the council for not being present during last week’s discussions. He said that had he been there, he would have explained that the failure to be registered should not disqualify a bidder.

Both Foley Construction and Wheatland Contractors illustrated satisfactorily through documentation and references that they are responsible and qualified bidders, he said. Both companies have met the general intent of the bidding requirements.

O’Neill raised another concern that none of the bidding companies provided documentation they have experience laying at least 1,000 feet of 60-inch sewer pipe. He suggested all bids be rejected on the basis that none of the companies provided proof of experience.

Janes responded the bid documents did not specify that a company had to show their experience, just that they had to have the experience at the time of placing a bid, which both Foley Construction and Wheatland Contractors did.

Janes also told the council that according to Iowa bid-letting requirements, any and all bids may be rejected for a sound reason. The council also has the authority to waive any irregularity as a technicality.

All the evidence suggests that both companies are responsive, responsible bidders, said Janes, and any action other than awarding the contract to the lowest bidder could result in an increase of the project’s cost.

Attorney Wiley Pillers, representing Wheatland Contractors, addressed the council, saying in his legal opinion the failure to be registered and provide documentation of experience were not justification to reject all bids or award the contract to any company other than his client.

Pillers explained that technicalities, formalities and informalities are different things. The concerns being raised fall under informalities, and do not rise to the level of good cause to reject Wheatland Contractors’ bid.

The wording of the bid documents is such that a company was to be licensed to do the type of work contemplated in the state of Iowa. Pillers pointed out there is no specific licensing to do sewer work in Iowa.

The permit from Workforce referred to by O’Neill took 24 hours to obtain, and has since been done.

Pillers reiterated that the clause about having experience with 60-inch pipe does not require the contractor is to prove anything. They simply must have the experience stated at the time of bidding.

It comes down to who has what legal rights if the wrong decision is made, said Pillers. Legal precedent in other similar circumstances has determined the council does not have sound reason to reject all the bids, or award to any company other than Wheatland Contractors.

Former Ward 2 councilman Ron Mallicoat, who resigned last August after moving out of the ward, announced his intent to run for at-large councilman in November.

Mallicoat expressed his disappointment in the proceedings leading up to the current circumstances. A lot has changed since his time on the council, he said, indicating those changes were not positive.

This portion of the more than $3 million total project is on time constraints because part of the area involved, near 18th Avenue South and Fifth Street, is property of Archer Daniels Midland, which has plans to lay new railroad tracks to bring supplies to its co-generation facility. If the sewer separation is not completed prior to the tracks being laid, boring under them will greatly increase the project’s total cost.

ADM has agreed to wait until after Sept. 15 to begin work.

The question came up of whether that deadline could still be met despite the delays. Janes told the council the original timeline called for the notice to proceed to be issued by Friday, which is still possible.

Pillers also told the council that Wheatland Contractors is ready to begin work immediately if necessary.

The council voted unanimously to reconsider the resolution that awarded the contract to Foley Construction. A resolution to reject all bids failed 6 to 1, with At-large Councilman Bob Soesbe voting in favor. The resolution to award the contract to award the contract to Wheatland Contractors passed by unanimous vote.

Clinton Mayor LaMetta Wynn pointed out after the vote that Janes, City Attorney Bruce Johansen and City Engineer Steve Honse each recommended from the beginning that the contract go to Wheatland Contractors.