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DOT gives green light to contract for 27th Street S.W.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Start digging"

Le Mars Mayor Dick Kirchoff used just those two words Tuesday to tell a contractor to get a new street built in the city's industrial area in southwest Le Mars.

The mayor's comments followed Le Mars City Council approval earlier this week of a contract for 27th Street Southwest with Vander Pol Excavating, of Orange City.

The approval had been stalled while the city and contractor worked on questions about meeting state requirements for grant money.

The project involves construction of the new street, 27th Street S.W., and an extension of Industrial Road.

When complete, the streets will serve new and expanding businesses.

Contract approval was delayed while the city and Vander Pol, the apparent low bidder, waited for concurrence to award the bids from he Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).

Half of the $902,312 project cost will be paid with money from a DOT program for infrastructure to promote economic development.

Four of the five contractors Vander Pol listed on the firm's bid were no longer on a DOT list of Targeted Small Businesses.

Targeted Small Businesses are defined as 51 percent or more owned, operated or actively managed by one or more women, people who are minorities or have a disability, according to DOT bid paperwork.

Contractors doing work with the specific DOT money awarded to the city need to show "a positive effort" to have Targeted Small Businesses be part of the project.

The contractor is not required to have a Targeted Small Business as a subcontractor, the city council was told earlier this month.

The city council's approval of the contract with Vander Pol Tuesday followed a successful appeal to the DOT by the Orange City business owner, Harry Vander Pol and attorneys working on the firm's behalf.

Jerry Ripley, JEO Consulting of South Sioux City, Neb., the project engineer for 27th Street Southwest improvements, said the DOT had overturned the original decision and now concurred with awarding the project to Vander Pol.

Harry Vander Pol, of Vander Pol Excavating, thanked the council and city staff "for any and all efforts" to get the initial DOT decision overturned.

Jerry Rus, Vander Pol general manager, said he appreciated Le Mars City Administrator Scott Langel's call to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to discuss the project.

Rus also thanked the council and staff.

"We had some attorneys write letters, but your responses made us very positive that we could get this thing overturned and we used them when we talked to the DOT," Rus said. "We appreciate every thing you did."

Joe Flannery, Le Mars city attorney, said an email from the DOT after the Vander Pol appeal contained information that the DOT "did not have a really clearly defined objective on factors they used to assess whether or not a positive effort on (Targeted Small Businesses) had been made."

"They are relooking at their rules for future contracts," Flannery added.

The DOT action could save taxpayers $66,000, according to Le Mars City Councilwoman Delana Ihrke.

The dollar amount is the difference between the Vander Pol bid and the second apparent low bid from Concrete Specialties, of South Sioux City, Neb.

Concrete Specialities has sent a letter to the DOT asking why the DOT changed its position on the bid from Vander Pol.

When the council met this week, city officials had not received a DOT response to the Concrete Specialties letter.

Langel recommended the council move forward on the project with Vander Pol, unless there was different legal advice from Flannery.

"Let's get going on the project," Langel said.

The Vander Pol bid has now been called responsive by DOT, Flannery told the council

"I guess in a worst case scenario Concrete Specialities asks for an appeal and the project is halted somehow," Flannery said.

The council's vote to award the bid to Vander Pol was unanimous.

Earthwork and storm sewer work is slated for this fall.

The new street and street extension are to be paved next year with construction completed by May of 2013.

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