Politics, Money & Millages

New Bidding Process for $11.4 Million Animal Control Building Raises Controversy

Posted In: Politics, Local, Taxes,   From Issue 916   By: Robert E Martin

15th July, 2021     0

An $11.4 million millage Saginaw County voters approved back in 2018 to build a new Animal Control Shelter recently raised additional controversy when Saginaw County Commissioners in a 6-5 vote awarded the construction management contract to a Lansing based company, instead of two local Saginaw companies who finished second and third.   

The vote also brought to light deeper issues regarding prevailing wage and a new bidding process that changes the way Saginaw County awards contracts. Lansing-based Granger Construction won the contract with their $702,301 bid, despite the fact Saginaw-based Spence Brothers and RC Hendricks came in with bids of $641,250 and $529,800 respectively.

“We are very disappointed in the vote and feel that we have more than highly qualified, local Saginaw County or Great Lakes Bay Region contractors that are able to build those things that Saginaw County taxpayers paid for,” commented Veronica Horn, CEO & President of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce.

According to Carl Ruth, Board of Commissioner Chairman, awarding the contract was based upon a new scoring system the county has adopted when awarding large projects that involves a point system rating factors such as experience, firm & personnel qualifications, project management, safety, and health performance.

After tabulating the points awarded to each of these factors, Granger came in with 89.85 points before the final interview, Spence totaled 80.40 points, with Hendricks clocking 91.06 points, leading with both lowest price and highest point ranking; however, after the final interview Spence came in with 108.05 points and Granger came out on top with 113.46 points. 

When asked why locality was also not a factor for ranking total points in the new process, Ruth believes the County Services Committee recommendation for Granger also included this component. “One of the reasons that they emphasized Granger is because Granger had just built two animal shelter projects recently.”

According to Saginaw County Clerk Vanessa Guerra, the vote was held in committee on 2/10/21 and then referred to the full board at that meeting. The full board then voted on the motion to approve at their 2/16/21 meeting.

Discussion from the minutes shows that Commissioner Chris Boyd stated the current Purchasing Policy requires the Board to give preference to local contractors and that he believes what was overlooked in the confusion of attempting to approve the new Responsible Contractor Policy is that bid amounts indicate Spence Brothers had the lower bid.

He went on to state that while the award committee made the determination that all three bidders qualified, the Board has the ability and responsibility to make its own determination that the lower bidder is also the qualified bidder. The Controller stated the bids were based on a RFQ that matches the Responsible Contractor Policy that evaluates qualifications along with pricing.

After discussion, the motion to approve carried by the following roll-call vote: YES:  Thiesen, Harris, Ewing, Krafft, Dwan and Ruth.  NO: Matthews, Little, Webster, Tany and Boyd.

Next on the agenda was discussion of the Purchasing Policy and the appearance that it conflicts with the Responsible Contractor Policy. Dave Gilbert, Civil Counsel, explained that an additional paragraph was added to the Purchasing Policy that Saginaw County will not enforce the provisions pertaining to prevailing wages unless: (1) the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor starts collecting data with respect to prevailing wages; or (2) the law governing prevailing wages in Michigan is reenacted by the state legislature.

(Editor’s Note: Michigan voters adopted a ballot proposal during a previous statewide election eliminating Prevailing Wage language that had prohibited governmental entities from awarding contracts to construction firms that did not use Union labor, thereby inflating the costs of these projects to taxpayers).

Boyd called for division of the two policies to avoid confusion and Tany seconded a motion to divide the question and vote on the policies separately, which failed by the following roll call vote: YES: Theisen, Little, Webster, Tany and Boyd. NO: Harris, Ewing, Krafft, Dwan, Matthews and Ruth..

According to minutes from the Feb. 16th Committee on County Services meeting, the process of evaluating and assigning points to choose the company with the best fit for the project is the same process contained in the Purchasing Policy and Responsible Contractor Policy.

The top two scoring CM Firms Spence Brothers and Granger Construction were invited to a Presentation/Interview on Friday, December 4, 2020 via Zoom. Based upon the final scores, the Committee recommended the Construction Management contract be awarded to Granger Construction, basing their decision is upon Granger’s experience with constructing the Ingham County Animal Shelter and the MSU School of Veterinarian Medicine. The Committee considered this direct experience with these projects as the factor that elevated Granger to the forefront.

According to Committee on County Services meeting minutes from Feb. 16, 2021, they met with civil counsel Dave Gilbert in November, 2020, who provided a brief explanation of the proposed revisions to County Purchasing Policy #241 to rescind and delete any reference to prevailing wage requirements and to add a reference to a Responsible Contractor Policy.

This matter was Commissioner Privileged at the November 2020 Board Session and appeared under Unfinished Business on the December Board Session. At the January 19, 2021 Board Session, the December 2020 Minutes were corrected to reflect that the vote taken on this matter was not valid. The motion remained active on the floor and was taken up under Unfinished Business. After discussion, the matter was referred to a Committee of the Whole that was held February 3, 2021. The matter was then sent back to County Services Committee which was held February 10, 2021.

Extensive discussion having been held between the Controller, Civil Counsel, and Commissioners, approval of the proposed new County Policy #244 - Responsible Contractor Policy and revisions to County Policy #241 – Purchasing were submitted.

When asked her take on what transpired, former County Commissioner Kathy Dwan offers a candid and succinct response:  “The bottom line on what happened is that the Democrats get pissed every time certain favored contractors aren’t awarded every major contract in town.”

“When we tried to repeal prevailing wage in order to get competitive pricing on projects, the Democrats sat on it for two years.  Jimmy Greene, who represents the Non-Union Builders Contractors Association at the state level basically said, “Alright, if you keep this up I’m going to sue you.  Consequently, it took Saginaw eight months to come up with this cockamamy scheme involving ‘responsible builders & contractors’ language. What that entails is a lot of forms and paperwork that evaluates all these different factors,” she continues.

“For example, if you’re going to build a jail you need to reference what jail you built and all the details associated with that, which is fine; but the kicker is that with all this additional and detailed paperwork it actually eliminates a lot of good builders from even considering whether to bid on the project.”

“With the Animal Control project, Hendrick got thrown out and Granger received extra points because they actually have built animal control buildings before and the Responsible Contractor language says you need to give the bid to the contractor that receives the most points from this new process that we’ve adopted,” states Dwan.

“But what kills me and what really isn’t being spoken about is the fact that Granger is merely the project manager. Even though they are based out of Lansing, they’re still hiring all the same sub-contractors here locally from Saginaw that Spence or Hendrick would hire. Granger will bid the sub-contracting work out to all the local concrete people, electricians, and people in our area that bid on these various components.   Granger is just a contract supervisor and they just finished building a beautiful animal shelter in Kalamazoo, so if we’re going to have an $11 million dollar building, it better be done right.”

“A lot of shenanigans have been going on and a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened,” concludes Dwan. “The Democrats have been doing everything they can to get their friends’ jobs.    What they did to get around the prevailing wage mandate was to write this Responsible Contract language, which makes it so difficult for any small company to bid on a job.”

“Another trick they played is vote not to strip the prevailing wage mandate out of the purchasing policy, but just add a statement saying they will no longer enforce that policy in lieu of this.  The reason they didn’t take it out while they’re following this new criteria is that if the State does put Prevailing Wage back into effect someday, then they’ll have a way to move back to it.  They’re so sneaky and sly with the way they do stuff it makes me cringe.”

“If you only hire one or two or three firms from our local community, what is that going to do for their prices? It only encourages a monopoly.  If a non-union company puts up a bid that is competent and qualified, let’s pay the least we can for the project.

“After all, everyone considered  for the job lives in Michigan and we all write checks to Lansing.”



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