City should accept low bid for landfill work despite legal concerns

The bid, even after it is corrected, is still less than other bidders. Making the change does not give the low bidder an unfair advantage.

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The Walla Walla City Council this week questioned why the city attorney recommended it reject the lowest bidder for work at the Sudbury Landfill.

We, too, are perplexed by the recommendation.

Nine firms submitted bids to closure work at a section of the landfill. The lowest bid was from Boss Construction Inc. for just over $1.5 million, which was about $112,000 less then the next bidder.

But Boss failed to include a required $25,000 allowance fee for minor changes. So what? If that fee is added to the Boss bid it is still almost $87,000 less than the other bidders.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson recommended that bid be rejected because allowing Boss to tinker with its bid at this point could result in a "lawsuit to the next-lowest bidder who did submit the right form."

Perhaps, but even in a courtroom common sense and reason should prevail. Allowing Boss to fix the bid to so it adheres to the requirements doesn't give it an advantage, unfair or otherwise, with the competition.

It's no different than a car owner seeking bids from auto repair shops for a significant amount of work. Let's say one bid came in $200 less than the others but that bidder failed to include sales tax. Well, if the sales tax is over $200 then you would go with the next-lowest bidder, if not you add the sales tax and accept that low bid.

We understand that government has a lot more rules and regulations to ensure the process is equitable. In this case, however, the process does remain equitable even if the right form was not submitted.

Sure, the others bidders could sue. The city has lawyers on staff who can fight the lawsuit. The cost to the city would be minimal, certainly less than the $87,000 difference in the bids.

We believe accepting the Boss Construction Inc. bid is a risk worth taking even if the city -- the taxpayers -- come out only $5 ahead.

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