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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2007

Mayor: Ruling reveals firm's 'duplicity'

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said he would accept a judge's ruling that threw out a $2.5 million contract because the city had failed to enforce a requirement for a staffed local office.

The mayor said the ruling did the city a favor by revealing "duplicity" on the part of the contractor.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates granted an injunction on Monday nullifying the city's contract with New Era Builders Inc. of Cleveland, to install security equipment at the water treatment plant in East Toledo.

The judge agreed with a lawsuit that the contractor did not have an office within a 50-mile radius of Toledo as required by the original bid documents. He scolded the city for overlooking the mandatory requirements of the original bid, which was issued in June, 2006.

The suit was brought by Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, representing construction worker unions, which claimed that New Era Builders was using a sham office at 901 Washington St. to qualify for the project.

The city's original bid proposal required the bidder to have an office in the greater Toledo area, and it specifically prohibited any bidder that opened an office just for the purpose of qualifying for the project.

"It has been revealed that, in fact, New Era Builders did not have an active, local office," the mayor said. "They rented office space on Washington Street, but did not keep the office manned.

"On behalf of the City of Toledo, I would like to thank the Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council for bringing this duplicity to the attention of city officials. The contract will be rebid as soon as possible," he said.

The judge scolded the city for requiring all bidders to maintain an office within a 50-mile radius of the city and then not enforcing the requirement when it chose low-bidder New Era, with a bid of $2.8 million, over the only other bidder, Retzke/Snyder Electrical Contractors Inc. of Sylvania, which bid $3.1 million. The final contract with New Era, approved in February, was $2.5 million.

Robert Williams, the director of public utilities, said the requirement of an office within a 50-mile radius was ambiguous. He said the contract should have simply required the contractor to show that it would be available to respond to emergencies within a certain period of time.

"That [local office requirement] was unique to that specification and that caused a problem with the whole bid," Mr. Williams said. He said he would work with the city law department to draft clearer language.

The documents were written by a consultant hired to help the city assess its security needs at the water treatment plant to address concerns of a terrorist attack.

Representatives of New Era could not be reached for comment.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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