Could typo cost Placer taxpayers $117,000?

Bidder wants reversal on contract award revolving around a misplaced decimal point
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A contractor is claiming a misplaced decimal point on a bid – and Placer County’s stubbornness – will cost taxpayers $117,000. Steve Hunter, Tricorp Construction president, said Wednesday that he and others at the Sacramento company turned in what they thought was the lowest bid on the Tahoe City Transit Center project. But a line-item mix-up resulted in a misplaced decimal point that did not change the bottom line bid – or even the written calculation on the amount it would charge for fill at the site, he said. Or at least they thought it didn’t. The county Administrative Services Department was made aware of the error shortly after bids were opened Sept. 11 but the county went ahead and rewrote Tricorp’s bid so that it was no longer the lowest one, stated the company’s attorney Tyson Shower. That left out-of-state firm West Coast Contractors of Reno in line for the contract. It had registered a $3.92 million bid. “We don’t like to get into this stuff but it’s just wrong what the county is doing here,” Hunter said. Hunter said the $117,000 difference between his company’s bid and the second highest bidder is extra money he can’t understand the county losing during an economic downturn. With a protest lodged Monday by Tricorp, Administrative Services Director Clark Moots has until Friday to make a decision on the initial ruling, county purchasing manager Jim Boggan said. If Tricorp doesn’t emerge as low bidder at that point and wants to fight the ruling, the company can pay for a bid protest hearing before county staff members. Hunter said that the company will have to post a $25,000 bond to move forward and then pay county costs for the hearing if a decision against Tricorp’s bid is upheld. From there, a dissatisfied bidder can take the matter up with the Board of Supervisors when it considers approval of the bid, Boggan said no date has been set for contract to go before the board. After that, it has the option of taking the county to court. Boggan said the decision at staff level would hinge on questions of whether the county followed its purchasing policy manual. Until Moots comes to a conclusion, Boggan said he wasn’t able to discuss details of the case. Hunter said the main point of the protest is that the county should have forgiven a minor error that didn’t alter the bid’s bottom line and was easily recognizable. Instead of $3.57 per-square-foot of fill material, the county took the figure of “357.00” miswritten in the bid and increased the total cost for 10,864 square feet of rock and gravel from $38,820 to $3.88 million. The $3.88 million figure for the fill alone is more than the $3.8 million bid Tricorp submitted for the complete project, Shower said. Shower said that would be 3,500 percent higher than all other bids for the material. That’s “beyond all bounds of reason,” Shower added. When built, the Tahoe City Transit Center will give the Highway 89 community a station for buses with a park and ride lot.