The contract for electrical work was narrowly approved.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- School board members approved contracts for the new middle school project despite objections from area electrical workers about one company's qualifications and work quality.
The board did so after learning the district could lose state money if it denied the contract recommendation from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission. The board unanimously approved three of the four contracts Thursday night.
The fourth, for electrical work on the new middle school, to be located off state Route 46, passed 3-2 with members John H. Davis and Rocky Riviella opposed.
The vote came after several minutes of discussion about Bay Harbour Electric of Erie, Pa., which submitted the lowest of the five bids for electrical work at $911,000.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 573 of Warren starting researching the company shortly after bids were opened Oct. 15. Jeff Brown, union president, said about 25 percent of the company's workers are out of work or have to travel out of state to get jobs.
Lawsuits: Brown of Cortland and Mark Catella of Weathersfield, another union representative, pointed to the company's statement on project forms indicating there are no pending lawsuits, judgments or arbitrations against it.
Brown, however, said he found two pending lawsuits, one by a Warren contractor that sued Bay Harbour in 1999 for money not paid, and another in Washington County, Pa. A coupled filed the Pennsylvania lawsuit against the company for the purchase of tools and materials.
Brown said the company also has been barred from bidding on projects in New York for five years because of prevailing wage violations.
"How do you justify Bay Harbour as a responsible bidder?" Brown asked board members.
Atty. Christopher Newman who represents the board, said the board can only reject the lowest responsible bidder with the approval of the OSFC. The commission is funding about 58 percent of the $14 million project cost with local money paying the remainder.
Davis pointed out while the commission is paying for most of the project cost, it's the local board that's responsible for the votes.
Riviella asked OSFC officials if they're comfortable that Bay Harbour is a responsible company.
"You guys are going back to Columbus. We have to answer to these guys," he said, pointing to the union members.
Bidding law: Jeff Tuckerman of OSFC said the process to review the bids is consistent with public bidding law.
Representatives of URS Construction Services Co. of Pittsburgh, the project manager, said they stand by the recommendations, and Tuckerman said the OSFC stands ready to go. If the board rejected a low bidder without commission approval, the commission wouldn't fund that portion of the project.
"In reality, if we go against the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, we don't have a school at all," said Terry Swauger, board member.
Bob Wurdock of URS, the project's site manager, said the commission conducted the same evaluation process on the Erie contractor as the others.
"They all had some negative feedback," he said of all the bidders. "It's our opinion that the positive feedback on Bay Harbour Electric far outweighs the negative feedback."