ALAMOSA — The United States Department of Agriculture denied the Cooley and Sons Excavating, Inc. recommendation for the Mosca wastewater infrastructure project four days after Alamosa County Attorney Jason Kelly sent a letter asking the USDA to concur. With the agency giving the county a $159,000 loan and a $655,000 grant towards the project, the commissioners had to choose a new company to recommend in hopes of keeping the funds.
“There were some opportunities there to pick someone other than the apparent low bidder,” Kelly said in a special meeting yesterday to discuss the issue, “but you had to give proper justification.”
Robins Construction’s bid was the lowest at $834,655.00 while Cooley’s bid was $4,674 higher at $839,329.00. The USDA did not believe the recommendation was justified.
“Our determination is that the Alamosa County Commissioners recommendation to award to Cooley & Sons Excavating is a violation of the regulatory requirement that mandates open and free competition,” said the USDA letter.
“Incorporating a location preference and/or a valued member requirement pre-bidding or post-bidding is a violation of Federal procurement requirements.”
The letter included three options for the commissioners. They could request that the USDA reconsider if given new information, request a mediation or request an appeal. Kelly said that the reconsideration option also meant that the county could reconsider their initial pick.
Alamosa County Commissioner Helen Sigmond, who wanted to go with Robins originally, made the motion to recommend them.
“I know the people in Mosca are very concerned about this project going forward,” Sigmond said. “I think we do need to recommend that the bid be awarded to Robins.”
Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn agreed this time. “We wanted to keep it local and we were attempting to do that,” said Yohn. “That was the wishes of most of the residents of the Mosca area in my opinion. To risk the grant in the situation that we’re in now, I would second Commissioner Sigmond’s motion to keep this project going forward.
“Hopefully we are still awarded the grant and the loan.”
Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen echoed Yohn’s statement and defended his previous decision.
“I felt at the time we had an opportunity to make a recommendation for a local contractor who had a Mosca address,” Allen said, “and I felt like I owed it to the community to at least make that effort.”
If USDA honors the new recommendation then it is likely that the funding will no longer be in jeopardy. The contract may be awarded to Robins Construction at the next commissioners meeting on July 26.