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DC School Board debates vocational house bid
SEPT. 20, 2010
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In a split vote, board approves bid from LBC of Litchfield

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – The Dassel-Cokato School Board had a difficult time deciding who should receive the bid for the vocational house for the 2010-2011 school year. It took three different votes before they decided which lumberyards’ bid to go with.

The board received three bids for the vocational house. The bid from the local lumber yard, Pro-Build of Cokato, was $22,949.

There were two bids from lumberyards in surrounding communities. One was from Simonsom Lumber of Hutchinson for $22,626. The other was from Litchfield Building Center (LBC) of Litchfield for $22,339.

At the meeting last Wednesday, a representative from Pro-Build was present. Nate Wilson, outside sales representative and former manager, gave the school board his input as to why they should accept their bid, even though it was slightly higher than the bids from the other lumberyards.

Litchfield and Hutchinson schools both build vocational houses and neither school accepts bids from outside of that school district. Pro-Build is not able to bid on those houses, said Wilson.

Taxes that the other yards pay do not come back to the School District, and the other lumberyards do not contribute monetarily to the DC School District, Wilson said.

Wilson wondered if it was worth going outside of the school district for a 4 percent savings.

After Wilson finished speaking, a motion was made to accept the bid from LBC of Litchfield.

During discussion, board member Tracy McConkey asked whether the school board was required to accept the lowest bid. “Was there any situations in the past when (the board) had not accepted the lowest bid?” asked board member Mark Linder.

Neither DC school’s business manager Tina Palmer nor board chair Kevin Dahlman could recall a time that it had.

“Wilson has a valid point. There is only (about a) $600 difference (between Pro-Build’s bid and LBC’s bid),” said McConkey.

If the board did not accept the lowest bid, the other bidders might come back and ask why their bids were not accepted when they were lower, noted Palmer, or the school district could possibly get in trouble with the audit.

There is not an issue with Pro-Build providing the materials for the house, but with large bids, the board always receives several of them, said D-C School Superintendent Jeff Powers.

Dahlman noted the board is “expected to be good stewards of the district and spend money wisely” and was disappointed Pro-Build didn’t give the best quote. When the board voted on the motion, board members Dahlman, Linder, and board member Kevin Bjork voted to approve the bid from LBC. Board members McConkey, Irene Bender and Richard Tormanen voted against it. The motion to accept LBC’s bid failed.

After that motion failed, a motion was set forth to accept the bid from Pro-Build.

“I am concerned with the precedent this would set,” noted Dahlman. The board would be entering “new water” and has a history of accepting the lowest bid.

Bjork agreed, saying accepting the Pro-Build bid may be a “double-edged sword.”

This may take away the incentive for future bidders, noted Linder and urged the board to vote no on the new motion.

When the board voted on this motion, Bender, McConkey, and Tormanen voted to accept the Pro-Build bid. Linder, Bjork, and Dahlman voted no.

The DC School Board had reached a stalemate. At that point, Dahlman asked Powers what would happen if a decision was not made that night. They would not be able to start with the vocational house, said Powers.

It decided to lay the bids aside and take care of the other business on the agenda that night.

When the board had finished with the other business, it came back to the vocational house bids. Dahlman decided they should have an informal discussion before passing another motion.

“As a board member, I am torn on how to vote. Do I vote how the taxpayers want to vote? I think that my taxpayers would think that we should keep it local – support local business,” said McConkey.

That is a “slippery-slope, how much (of a difference in bids) is small? How much is big?” asked Dahlman. He said he would “vote today to avoid a situation tomorrow. [I do] not want to put myself in a corner [I] can’t get out of.”

The “local thing can be touchy work in a situation like this,” said Bender. Although she would like it to stay local, she found it unfortunate the local lumberyard did not come back with the lowest bid. “We will hear what the community really wanted after all is said and done,” she added.

“I hope every year that Pro-Build will get the contract, but they were not the low bid this year,” said Powers.

Finally, another motion was made to accept LBC’s bid. When the board voted, Dahlman, Linder, Bjork, Bender, and Tormanen voted to accept LBC’s bid. McConkey voted against it. LBC won the bid for the vocational house.

Odds and ends

In other business, the school board:

• heard a report from food service manager Bernie Reinke. She explained how the children’s nutrition program worked, how the program worked at DC Schools, and went over how many meals were served last year.

• allowed the FFA to practice its parliamentary procedure. The FFA is going to nationals Monday, Oct. 18. Parliamentary procedure at the national level is different than parliamentary procedure in Minnesota, so the students have been working hard all summer to get used to the new requirements.

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