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Mistake could delay school

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By Molly Haines

Building a new middle school has long been the dream of Owen County School Superintendent Mark Cleveland. But with recent problems in the bidding process for contractors, Cleveland’s dream may be delayed.

Bidding for the project opened up to contractors March 24, although several companies placed bids Quantum Construction Company out of Cincinnati appeared to win. Quantum’s bid was $200,000 lower than the second lowest bidder.

Cleveland said once the bidding process is complete, each bidder has approximately two hours to fax their information to the architect, Ross/Tarrant.

“After all of the information was faxed in and we saw that  Quantum was the best bid I got a call from Ross/Tarrant and we realized we had a problem,” Cleveland said.

“In this particular case, the bid is incomplete,” Cleveland said. “Quantum’s bid was $200,000 less than the second-lowest bidder because they did not include the geothermal wells.”

Geothermal wells heat and cool buildings and are used at Owen County High School.

On March 30, the Owen County School Board held a special meeting where Ron Murrell of Ross/Tarrant Architects presented the results of the bid opening.

Quantum Construction President H.T. Kemme was also present at the meeting to answer any questions related to Quantum’s bid.

“Since we had this problem, the purpose of the March 30 meeting changed,” Cleveland said. “The president of Quantum was at the meeting and convinced us that even though the geothermal wells were left out of the bid, they would go on with the project at the cost they had bid and work it out with their subcontractor to where they could do so.”

At the March 30 meeting the school board chose to award Quantum the contract, pending the approval of the Kentucky Department of Education. The agreement was verbal and nothing was signed.

“At that point we were still ‘iffy’ about it but since they said they’d make it right with us we decided to go with them,” Cleveland said. “Our biggest concern was wondering how they were going to eat that cost.”

On April 14 Cleveland met with Kemme.

“During our meeting Mr. Kemme gave me a letter basically saying that he could not work out a deal with the current subcontractor, so he would be switching to another subcontractor,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland said that when he received the letter from Kemme, it changed the bidding process.

“The issue is they violated the process,” Cleveland said. “Because they violated the process we cannot go with Quantum Construction.”

On April 20 the school board met. Kemme was present at the meeting to discuss the issue. Owen County Attorney Jim Crawford was also present.

“I wanted Mr. Crawford there for legal advice,” Cleveland said. “In the event that we had a potential binding contract, although we never signed a contract.”

Kemme of Quantum Construction was not available for comment.

Cleveland said going forward with the plans for the new middle school is important to the students of Owen County.

“We want to give our students a more efficient place to learn,” Cleveland said. “The new middle school will have many features that the current one doesn’t. Anything we do is meant to give students better learning opportunities.”

Cleveland said this is not a major setback.

“We’re not going to lose much time,” Cleveland said. “It will only set us back about a month. In the scheme of things, one month isn’t a deal-breaker.”

A meeting was held on Tuesday to further discuss the issue.