Sometimes things are harder than they need to be.

Arnold city officials had to take extra steps to finalize a contract to repave 13 streets with asphalt overlay. The project started June 25 and is expected to be finished by Aug. 12, Public Works Director Judy Wagner said Monday.

The city also has awarded a contract to replace concrete slabs on streets in the Woodridge Estates and Rosedale subdivisions, and possibly in the Twin Fawn Meadows subdivision. That bidding process went smoother than the one for the asphalt work. The concrete work is expected to start the week of July 6 and be completed by Aug. 12, Wagner said.

Spencer Contracting of Arnold was awarded both projects. The city will pay Spencer $390,303.80 for the asphalt work and up to $500,000 for the concrete work, according to city documents.

The streets to be repaved, and in the order the work will be done, include Wicks Road, Vera Drive, Irene Drive, Birch Road, Spruce Lane, Willow Drive, Cyprus Lane, Virginia Court, Ridgecrest Drive, Waddo Street, Loretta Drive, Ida Drive and Ida Lane. Wagner said work started Monday on Willow Drive and Cyprus Lane.

Asphalt headache

On May 7, Arnold City Council members voted 7-0 to approve the contract with Spencer Contracting for the asphalt work. Ward 1 Councilman EJ Fleischmann was not at the meeting, which was held via teleconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was the second time the city had to seek bids for the project. On April 16, the council voted unanimously to reject the first round of bids because of a clerical error that resulted in out-of-date language being included in the bid.

A section that is part of all city contracts that covers legal and insurance matters said, “When, in response to a bid proposal issued by the city, two or more proposals meet the city’s bid specifications, requirements and are deemed sufficiently equal, a local bid preference shall be given to businesses located within the corporate limits of the city if the bid presented by said business is within 5 percent of the lowest qualifying bid.”

However, that clause should not have appeared in the contract because in September 2017, the City Council voted to remove the local preference language from the city’s ordinance and make a practice of awarding contracts to the lowest bids, if they meet all the criteria.

Richison said the language has now been removed from all city contracts.

When the April bids came in for the asphalt work, though, the language was still in the contract, and Dura Seal Paving of Barnhart had submitted the lowest one, at $400,306.78.

Spencer Contracting submitted a bid at $405,949.02, and since it is an Arnold business and its bid was within 5 percent of Dura Seal’s bid, the language in the contract said the city should hire Spencer. That contradicted Arnold’s ordinance calling for the city to hire the lowest submitted bid no matter where the company is located.

“Spencer apparently noticed the clause was in (the contract) and immediately brought it to our attention,” Richison said. “Dura Seal was aware of the council’s past action to remove that (clause) from the code and immediately brought that to our attention. We were in a situation where we had two companies who believed they should be awarded the bid. No matter which way we went, the bidder we didn’t choose would have a fairly substantial argument that they had been harmed because we inappropriately awarded the bid to the other company. Had we picked one of the two, we were going to invite more trouble.”

The city had companies resubmit bids for the asphalt project because of the out-of-date language in the bid contract.

Richison said the city received seven bids for the asphalt project the first time. Four companies – Spencer, Dura Seal, E. Meier and Byrne and Jones Construction – submitted bids the second time.

“We had several bidders who dropped out. I kind of expected that,” Richison said.

Dura Seal’s bid was $398,154.91 the second time, which was not the lowest bid.

The May vote on the asphalt contract went to the second-highest bidder because the lowest bidder did not include the cost for repainting stripes on the streets to be repaved. E. Meier Contraction of Weldon Spring submitted the lowest bid of $385,452.60, according to city documents.

“It is always an awkward situation when we have a low bid, but we feel the bid is not responsive to the bid specs and will not accomplish all of the work we want done,” City Administrator Bryan Richison said. “We would have been happy to go with them (the lowest bidder), but we couldn’t because they didn’t bid all of the work that we wanted.”

Arnold has budgeted $400,000 for the asphalt work, which is well underway, and Spencer will stop if it hits that limit.

“If something happens and we have to cut back, we will cut streets at the bottom of the list,” Richison said. “Right now, we don’t think that will be necessary.”