WALLA WALLA -- The controversy over which bid to pick for the Sudbury Landfill closure project ended Wednesday night with Council voting 6-1 to reject all bids in an attempt to prevent a lawsuit that could stall work for months.
At the center of the controversy was whether the Council should accept the lowest bid, from Boss Construction Inc. at around $1.51 million, or to consider that bid as insufficient because of irregularities and go with the second lowest bid, from Selland Construction Inc. at around $1.62 million.
Representatives from both companies argued why their bids should be accepted. And representatives from both also made it clear attorneys had been hired to maintain a "fair" bid process.
In the end, an overwhelming majority of the Council feared an award to either bidder would lead to a lawsuit from the other.
"I am here to represent the citizens of Walla Walla and to represent their best interest. And ultimately I think the best thing is to get this job done and not spend a year of work in the courts," Council member Jerry Cummins said, just before motioning to reject all bids.
Other issues relating to the bid controversy included subcontractor practices, differing interpretations of legal precedent and perceived errors in bid paperwork.
"This has become such a confused situation that I believe to best serve the community I think we need to take action and reject all the bids," Council member Conrado Cavazos said.
The one member who voted against rejection was Jim Barrow.
"It is inherently unfair, it is not illegal, but I think it is unfair to the bidders to ask them to go back and rebid this after all of them have seen their bids. It just seems as if the city is trying to get a lower bid," he said.
In a memo sent last week, City Attorney Tim Donaldson reported Council had three options: It could reject the Boss Construction bid due to irregularities; waive the irregularities and accept the lowest bid; or reject all bids because the city had advertised in its request for bids that it had an unconditional right to reject all bids.
The Area Six Landfill closure project will initially require adding an extra three feet of topsoil to cover a 22-acre mountain of compacted refuse. Several wells would then be drilled to collect methane gas from the old landfill site. And facilities would be built to burn off that methane.