The threat of protest from local business A.M. Stephens Construction Company Inc., led to a shorthanded Lodi City Council rejecting all bids received for a multi-million dollar pavement project on Lockeford Street during Tuesday’s shirtsleeve session.

The option to rescind bids was introduced by Lodi Public Works Director Charles Swimley, who highlighted the concerns of delaying the project via a potential protest.

“We had a little over $1million in federal funds that were left over from the Harney Lane overpass project that we would use for the Lockeford Street project, and if we don’t use these funds by the end of this year we risk losing them completely,” Swimley said.

Rather than risk a protested bid approval, council members Mark Chandler, Bob Johnson and Doug Kuehne unanimously voted to allow Swimley to move forward with drafting a new bid contract and allowing the companies to submit new bids.

Chandler asked if requesting rebids would hinder the timeline of the project and was assured by Swimley that the city could receive proposals by mid-March and approve a bid by late spring.

“Our goal is to have the pavement in front of the Grape Festival Grounds completed by September, before the Grape Festival,” Swimley said.

Stephanie Fuller, a project manager at George Reed Construction Inc., was upset by the council’s decision to rebid the project after A.M. Stephens allegedly failed to follow the stipulations of the city’s bid contract.

The contract stipulated that a certain percentage of a bid estimate account for a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise to serve as a third party supplier or contractor, which is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation on federally funded projects.

The Department of Transportation recognizes a DBE as a small businesses firm, a veteran-owned business, a business owned by minorities or a business owned by women.

George Reed allocated 13 percent of their bid estimate for DBE costs. Fuller believes that the bid from A.M.Stephens, which was the lowest bid, should have been rejected because they did not allocate any funds for DBE costs.

Had the bids not been rescinded, the city would have looked to the next lowest project bid, which was from George Reed. Their bid was $23,000 higher than the bid from A.M. Stephens.

“By allowing them to rebid this project you are giving them a second bite at the same apple,” Fuller said.

Kuehne empathized with Fuller and furthered the discussion by asking if the California Department of Transportation and the San Joaquin Council of Governments could offer administrative review on the bids and render a decision that would avert the possibility of a protest by A.M. Stephens.

“Unfortunately, that would not eliminate the potential of a protest,” Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer said.

The city could accept George Reed’s bid and move forward with the Lockeford Street project, Schwabauer said, but if there was a protest and it was found in favor of A.M. Stephens the city would be responsible for paying them for the project as well as George Reed.

“We are in a pickle with timing and I don’t agree with a rebid but my job is to do what is best for the city,” Kuehne said.

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