By Michael Howell
The Ravalli County Commissioners balked at awarding a bid for the Store Lane paving project last week. The commissioners received three bids for the paving project: a $354,529.59 bid from J5 Construction, a $334,856 bid from Knife River and a low bid of $334,400 from Montana Materials Inc., dba as LS Jensen. Those bids were submitted to the Road Department for a review and recommendation. The commissioners also requested an estimate for the cost of the project if it was done in house by the Road Department. The recommendation came back to accept the low bidder, LS Jensen. The cost estimate for in-house work by the Road Department was estimated at $327,549. It was noted that it would involve 10 hours of overtime and involve the use of every driver/operator for five days. Some concern was expressed about the lack of any crew to do ordinary road maintenance during the project.
Jeremiah Lemons, a representative of LS Jensen, raised the question as to whether the County was now shopping bids after the bids were opened.
“It looks like they are saying they don’t have the manpower so it should go out to contract,” said Commission Chair Jeff Burrows. He said it was based on the fact of having to use the entire crew on the paving project.
Commissioner J.R. Iman said that one thing to consider was that the budget is short $700,000 in SRS funds that generally has funded road projects.
“Our ability to pay has changed,” said Iman. He said the county was not bidding against the companies.
“The question is whether we can afford to go to outside contractors to do the job at this time,” said Iman. He said as far as the question of shopping bids, it was not a question of having it done in-house or not, but of whether the county could afford to contract it out.
Commissioner Ron Stoltz said that the paving of the road still remained a priority.
“It would help if we knew what the SRS funding would be,” said Burrows.
The Commissioners agreed to re-schedule the bid letting to an unspecified future date.