A Burnsville construction company is suing the Anoka-Hennepin School District for rejecting its bid for the second phase of a construction project at Blaine High School.

The project includes expansion of the fieldhouse and fitness areas as well as the construction of a new front entrance and main office area.

Although CM Construction submitted the lowest of seven bids for the work, the district determined the company was not a responsible bidder.

CM Construction disagreed with the decision and filed a lawsuit asking the courts to prevent the district from awarding or executing a contract with any other bidder.

The case is still pending, but the School Board awarded the contract to the second-lowest bidder, Jorgenson Construction, April 27.

Jorgenson submitted a base bid of about $15.6 million. An additional $390,000 for bid alternatives put the total contract at just over $16 million.

CM Construction’s price was about $100,000 lower, but the district passed over the company due to alleged performance issues on a project at Andover High School.

“We do not believe that CM Construction is competent to successfully perform this project at Blaine High School that is of even greater complexity and scope,” Purchasing Manager Tiffany Audette said.

In a letter dated March 3 the school district informed CM Construction it was not considered a responsible bidder because the company had received notice of deficiencies on current projects and had not responded with a remedy or detailed plans to correct the work.

CM Construction’s lawyer protested the determination, calling it arbitrary and capricious and arguing that the school district’s decision didn’t cite any criteria listed in the instructions provided to bidders but relied on undisclosed criteria.

The company also pointed out the district determined CM Construction to be a responsible bidder when it awarded a project for the Roosevelt Middle School HVAC replacement project Jan. 27. But the district said that project was less complex.

“The District believes that CM Construction is capable of performing smaller projects but has demonstrated an inability to perform contracts of the magnitude involved at Andover High School and the new project at Blaine High School,” a March 18 letter from the district stated.

School Board documents lay out a number of issues the district has with CM Construction, the most significant being a lack of consistent management.

The district said it worked with four different project superintendents and several project managers over the course of the project in Andover and that “every change in one of these critical positions meant that everything had to start over in terms of the individual’s learning about the Project, its status and history.”

The turnover of staff led to wasted time and effort on the part of the district and the project architect, the district said.

The school district also cited problems such as a reverse flow of hot water flowing to new classrooms in Andover that impacted how effectively the classrooms were heated, as well as the destruction of a lighting board in the auditorium valued over $25,000. While CM Construction replaced the board, it did not match the existing lighting equipment in the auditorium, according to district documents.

Additional problems listed by the district included issues with pouring a concrete grade beam, failure to install fire-treated plywood at specified locations and the installation of conduit in an elevated slab that could impair the structural integrity.

CM Construction’s lawyer claimed in letters to the school district that the problems identified were mostly minor issues that are common in commercial remodeling projects valued over $10 million and that problems were corrected.

The company also argued that the turnover of supervisors did not affect the performance of the work and should not disqualify the company as a responsible bidder. It said the market demand for construction supervisors was at an all-time high in 2019.

In failing to award the bid to CM Construction, the district is violating public procurement laws, the company argues in its lawsuit.

A court hearing had been scheduled in April but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A hearing is now set for June 25, with a trial date listed as April 6, 2021.

connor.cummiskey@apgecm.com

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