Contractor: Roof repair bid process for Hanley Falls museum broke law

GRANITE FALLS — The owner a building materials company has accused a Hanley Falls Museum board and Yellow Medicine County of breaking the law during the bidding process for a roofing project.

The YMC Board on Tuesday heard the complaint from The Saw Mill owner Mike Richter regarding the dispensation of the contract for the roof materials for the Minnesota Machinery Museum in Hanley Falls.

Richter, accompanied by his lawyer, Greg Holmes of Granite Falls, asked why government protocol regarding bid letting wasn’t followed when the museum board requested quotes for materials to replace the museum’s roof, which is a county-owned facility. The museum granted the bid to Wood Lake Lumber.

Richter said his bid for the project was less and should have been the one accepted during the museum’s bid opening meeting.

“Why didn’t it go to the lowest bidder?” Richter asked.

Commissioner Greg Renneke explained to Richter the county board heard the museum board’s request for money to help replace the roof. As the county board has done with the YMC Fairgrounds, the county board voted to give the museum board $85,000 toward the repair or replacement of the roof. Renneke said the cost of the project was expected to run as high as $100,000 and the museum would have to come up with the difference.

Since the expected rate was supposed to remain below $100,000, Renneke said the county board did not anticipate the need for official bid letting, but instead recommended that the museum board get at least two quotes for the project.

During Tuesday’s meeting, YMC Attorney Keith Helgeson said he advised the museum of proper protocol and strongly suggested the lower bid be accepted.

But Holmes reminded the county board the museum building is property of the county and ultimately responsible for making sure the museum board followed protocol.

Holmes suggested the board of commissioners rescind its offer to the museum “because their action broke the law. You still have the opportunity to fix this.”

Renneke said the museum is aware of the issue.

“The museum board felt so bad they felt like giving back the money to the county, and do the project themselves,” he said.

“Why did they even come in to ask me for a quote?” Richter asked.

“I didn’t have anything to do with the bids,” Renneke said. He said the county board stays out of the organizations’ decisions.

“That’s irrelevant,” Holmes said. “Ultimately you’re still responsible. That’s the law. I would suggest you reconsider.”

Commissioner John Berends asked Helgeson what the process would be if the county board did rescind the resolution granting the funds.

“If the project totals over $100,000, sealed bids would be required,” Helgeson said. “Under $100,000, two quotes are needed, and to take the lower quote or go for ‘Best Value Quote.'”

Richert said he was comfortable with his bid.

“If they pay for it themselves, are we still in trouble with you?” Renneke asked.

“If you own the building you’re still responsible,” Holmes said. “If they pay for it, it’s a donation to the county, and you’re still responsible.”

After some discussion between Renneke and Richter, YMC Board Chair Gary Johnson interrupted, saying they had come to an impasse.

Johnson advised Richter to do what he needed to do, which may include “going to the museum board to get a better answer about why they did what they did.”

In other business:

• Jill Uhren, assistant vice president of Springsted also appeared before the YMC Board. She presented a slideshow presentation regarding her work with the labor management team in YMC to help it with its pay plan. Urell gave a reclassification update for the county’s personnel policy and an idea of what a full compensation study versus a partial study would cost and how each would help the county.

Urell pointed out the 10-plus years of a close working relationship with YMC and how she was looking forward to helping them with this project. She pointed out that the county currently utilized the Systematic Analysis Factor Evaluation (SAFE) that is unique to Springsted.

Her report was preluded by a report from the YMC Labor/Management Committee spokespersons Jolene Johnson, SWCD, and Sam Isfeld, Family Services, who brought several options before the board to consider, one of which included using Springsted’s services to help revamp the county’s pay plan.

• Jolene Johnson was also around to answer a question about buffer control deadlines for the board.

“Minnesota counties have until June 28 to decided to accept responsibility to enforce the law,” she said. “You have until the beginning of September to set your policies and procedures and send them to BWSR (Board of Water and Soil Resources) for approval.”

Administrative Penalty Orders (APOs) have been established by BWSR to ensure compliance and can be used by the county. The APOs can be found on BWSR’s website.

County Administrator Peg Heglund volunteered to set up a committee to develop their policies and procedures. She just isn’t going to be the enforcer, she said.

The board voted unanimously to get started on the project.