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By Carmen Ensinger
When the Greene County Board let bids for its new HVAC system for the courthouse, it received only two bids – two bids that were very different in price – like way, way different.
Normally, a board has to decide between a local company which might be say $5,000 over a much larger Springfield company, but in this case, Lloelke Heating and Plumbing’s bid of $796,500 was $257,454 over Henson Robinson’s bid of $539,046, which was actually, $10,000 under the proposed bid for the scope of the project, prompting the board to ask the engineer, John Shortal, to review the bids.
Shortal was present at the judiciary committee meeting to explain why there was the discrepancy in the bid and why Lloelke’s was so much higher than Henson Robinson’s bid.
“I went back and looked at both firms to see if their offers were legitimate and to see if they met the requirements and even though Henson Robinson is $10,000 less than our estimate, they met all of the requirements,” Shortal said. “We also asked Lloelke why their bid came in so much higher than Henson Robinson’s.”
According to Shortal, Lloelke submitted their drawings to their suppliers and their suppliers totally ignored Shortal’s drawings and completely designed another system.
“They had rewired the second floor for a new system,” Shortal said. “They thought by doing this they would still meet the budget but when they realized they were over budget it was too late to submit new specs. They told me, off the record, that if they had submitted what we had designed they would have been right about the same price. We had a couple other firms who didn’t submit bids but would have also been in the same ballpark but they had been awarded other projects and pulled out of the bidding.”
Shortal recommended that the board award the contract to Henson Robinson in the amount of $539,046. The county was awarded a USDA grant in the amount of $191,000 to help pay for the system and the rest will be paid for out of the approximately $2.5 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds the county will receive.
The county decided to go with a Variable Refrigerant Flow system consisting of outdoor units (4 to 6) connected to multiple indoor units via refrigerated piping to provide cooling and heating to individual zones.
The refrigerant piping will be smaller diameter than the hot and chilled water piping. This will allow the refrigerant piping to be ran with less disruption to the office holders and will allow the contractors to keep one system in place while the second system is being installed.
The VRF indoor units will be floor mounted console units similar to the existing fan coil units. This system will not have a changeover feature and will allow one zone (office holder) to heat while a different zone (office holder) can be cooling.
The Henson Robinson bid proposal had a construction duration of 240 days.
“The reason they made it that long is probably for the delivery of materials,” Shortal said. “No doubt it will take that long to get some of them. But you are in good hands with them because that is what they do all day every day all day long. They are more than qualified.”
One thing that was brought up prior was the need to hire someone to oversee the project.
“For whatever reason, because it is a grant, the USDA wants someone to oversee this on a daily basis, which I view as overkill,” Shortal said. “For one thing, 2/3 of the cost of the project is coming out of your pocket so this is going to cost you money. They are going to just sit and watch someone else work and it is supposed to be someone experienced in construction.”
However, County Clerk Debbie Banghart, after making a few phone calls, informed the board at the County Board meeting Wednesday night that they did not have to have someone present on a daily basis.
“I talked to someone who said we have to have someone here maybe once a week to say that they are meeting the required specifications,” Banghart said. “It has to be someone who has some knowledge of construction so I suggest we find someone who is retired from the construction industry.”