County takes back bid award

FAIRMONT – An attempt by Martin County commissioners to keep business local has resulted in the board having to pull an award for law enforcement center remodeling.

On Jan. 2, the board awarded a $94,900 contract to United Builders of Blue Earth, with an eight-week timeline for the project. However, another company, JS Cates Construction of Hamel, had bid the job for $900 less, with the same projected timeline.

JS?Cates complained about not being awarded the job. State law requires counties to award jobs to the lowest responsible bidder.

Martin County Attorney Terry Viesselman informed the board that going with a local company instead of the lowest bidder is viewed as favoritism.

“It’s a shame that we can’t keep it local,” said Commissioner Dan Schmidtke. “It’s kind of a dumb law.”

“We don’t have much of a choice,” noted Commissioner Steve Flohrs.

The board unanimously rescinded the award to United Builders and instead gave the job to JS Cates Construction.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners:

o Approved an increase in the County Attorney’s budget for salary adjustments for assistant county attorneys Peter Odgren and Mike Trushenski. The county reviewed salaries of assistant county attorneys with other benchmark and comparable counties, and determined the local salaries to be below the benchmarks.

Odgren, who has been working with the county attorney’s office for two years, will see a salary increase to $55,000. Trushenski has been an assistant county attorney for 14 years and will see a salary increase to $67,215.

o Approved out-of-state travel requests for county veteran service officer Doug Landsteiner for conferences to be held in Washington, D.C., in February and a training conference in Reno, Nev., in June.

A portion of the Washington trip is covered by the state and local Disabled American Veterans chapters, while the county will only need to cover mileage to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and airfare in excess of $300. The training in Reno, Nev., is expected to cost $1,542.