The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 18, 2014

Update: Highway 99 bridge delayed until 2017

Contractor failed to hire enough firms led by women, minorities

ST. PETER — Preservation work on the historic Highway 99 bridge over the Minnesota River in St. Peter will wait until 2017 after the low bidder didn’t hire enough minority- and women-owned contractors.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation found that Plain, Wis.-based Edward Kraemer and Sons, Inc. did not hire or make a good-faith effort to hire enough so-called “disadvantaged businesses.”

The goal, which kicks in whenever federal money is used, was that such businesses have at least 4.3 percent of the total contract. The company doesn’t have to meet that goal, but must at least try to meet it. But MnDOT said the company didn’t try hard enough.

Bob Beckel, the company’s vice president for its Minnesota region, said the company is familiar with this rule and has never before lost a project because of it.

“They didn’t feel we put forth that good-faith effort,” he said. “They had some good points, Kraemer had some good points.”

He said this was a unique project that called for a lot of steel repair. There are several good firms in the Twin Cities that are qualified to do this work, but they decided against it because of their workload and the complications of this job, Beckel said.

He said the company will be allowed to bid again once the project is re-bid.

The transportation department decided against awarding the $4 million project to the next-lowest bidder. It’s too late in the construction season to finish the project before the cold sets in.

And because the bridge has been deemed structurally sound, MnDOT has decided to delay the preservation work until after nearby projects on highways 22 and 169 are finished.

In 2015, Highway 22 near St. Peter is slated to be raised above the 100-year floodplain. Highway 99 is to be the detour across the Minnesota River.

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