June 29--WATERLOO -- Hawkeye Community College has scrapped designs to build and install campus signs over concerns of favoritism in awarding a contract for the project.
The board of trustees last week was set to award the contract to the lowest of five bidders, ASI Signs of Grinnell, which happened to be the same company that designed the signs for the college.
However, Hawkeye President Linda Allen said one of the unsuccessful bidders shared a concern ASI had an advantage in the bidding process because of that role.
Allen told trustees "it became clear" that ASI did have an advantage in the process as the college consulted its attorney. "The attorney recommended that we reject all bids and that we resubmit the project," she said. The board agreed with that recommendation and unanimously rejected the bids.
The signs will be redesigned by Struxture Architects of Waterloo in a way Allen said would be substantially different to "level the playing field" for any firm that wants to bid on the project. She said the college expects to be seeking bids on the project this fall.
Dan Channer of Struxture told trustees that officials didn't initially expect to exceed the $130,000 threshold requiring them to seek bids on the project, so the administration entered into an agreement with ASI to design the signs. Channer reviewed ASI's work once it was clear the college would need to seek bids, but the company's designs were still used in the specifications.
In at least one case, though, the ASI logo remained on designs seen by those bidding on the project, leading to the competitor's concerns.
ASI bid $238,000 on the project. Other companies' bids ranged from $274,000 to $345,765.
Rejecting the bids was the right thing to do, said Allen. "We want everything we do to be above reproach."
In other business, the board approved:
--Seeking bids for an eight-booth welding lab at Hawkeye's Cedar Falls Center, which would replace an existing refrigeration lab.
"Welding is a high-growth, high-demand area that we are really focusing on," said Aaron Sauerbrei, Hawkeye's executive director of business and community education.
Welding labs on the main campus are already crowded with day and night classes. The Independence Center has a welding lab, but is too far away for Cedar Valley residents who want to sign up for the program.
--Establishing a self-insurance program for operating equipment protection and a resolution restricting the use of its funds.
Dan Gillen, vice president of administration and finance, said the program would cover breakdown of equipment, preventive maintenance and software licensing without increasing the college's insurance levy.
Currently, money for those costs comes from the facilities maintenance levy or the college's general fund.
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