Two Akron contractors vying for the Romig Road repaving project say the city misled them on the bidding process, potentially costing taxpayers between $500,000 and $3 million.

Lockhart Concrete Co. sent a lawyer-drafted letter of protest to the city Wednesday, the same day the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com reported on a lawsuit filed last week by Kenmore Construction.

Kenmore Construction offered to do the work for $2 million less than any of the other six companies bidding on the city contract. In its "abuse of discretion" lawsuit, Kenmore Construction alleges that a public engineer said the city wanted to go with concrete instead of asphalt, despite taking bids for both materials.

The contract was awarded last week to the Ruhlin Co. of Medina, which said that for $12.8 million, it would pave Romig Road in concrete from Vernon Odom Boulevard in Akron to Central Avenue in Barberton, just shy of I-76.

Kenmore Construction submitted a $9.7 million bid for asphalt. On Wednesday, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Joy Malek Oldfield denied the company's request for a temporary restraining that would have forced the city to give Kenmore Construction the contract.

Lockhart, which last paved Romig Road in concrete 45 years ago, said it would do the job for $499,743 less than Ruhlin, but someone “inadvertently omitted” a construction schedule when turning in the bid package.

The schedule is critical to the job because the developer of the old Rolling Acres Mall site must have its $100 million facility up and running before Jan. 1, 2024, or potentially forfeit $17 million in local property tax breaks. Blueprints obtained by the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com name Amazon as the builder of the shipping hub, which public officials expect to employ about 1,000 people at around $15 an hour.

In the letter dated Wednesday, Cuyahoga Falls attorney Aaron Ridenbaugh with Gibson & Moran told Akron Public Service Director John Moore that his client, Lockhart, was told on the first day of bidding that the city received the bid, but there was no mention of the missing schedule.

The city isn't discussing the matter publicly with one lawsuit filed and the potential for another. 

Lockhart is arguing that the city gave the impression that everything was in order.

“Lockhart prepared a Construction Schedule for submission with its bid. A true and accurate copy is attached to this letter,” Ridenbaugh wrote. “However, it was inadvertently omitted from the bid documents. After the bid was submitted, the City contacted Lockhart asking Lockhart to be prepared to review its Schedule with the City when contacted.

“This Communication led Lockhart to believe that the Schedule had been submitted with the bid documents," Ridenbaugh continued. "This was, at best, misleading on the City’s part.”

City spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said in an email: “Lockhart admitted in their letter that they failed to attach a schedule, which the invitation to bid clearly stated was a crucial element of the bid. The result of their error was a nonresponsive bid.”

Nischt did not comment on why — with $500,000 in potential savings for taxpayers on the line — the city did not call Lockhart earlier about the missing schedule. She did say the city followed "the law and our open and well-established competitive bidding process to select the lowest and best bid."

The city council gave the mayor's office the go-ahead to bid the project, which needs no more approval from the public body because the winning bid was 13% over budget instead of 15%, which would trigger a public hearing.

Council President Margo Sommerville said the city would be opening a “can of worms” if it unsealed bid packages early and gave contractors second chances to get everything submitted. “Then we have to do that for everybody,” said Sommerville, who added that "the onus is on the company to make sure that all the information is provided.”

Lockhart, located 2 miles from the Romig Road project in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood, owns 50 acres of property on the proposed road construction route, multiple trucks to haul away busted concrete and would have a short haul to its concrete plant.

“By denying Lockhart’s low bid, the City is not only spending additional taxpayer dollars, $499,473, on this project, it is losing a contractor who is uniquely qualified to undertake this job,” Ridenbaugh wrote.

In a letter sent to the Beacon Journal, Lockhart Chief Executive Officer A.R. Lockhart said that “considering our company’s (101) years of experience and vast resumé, it is without question that Lockhart is more than qualified to perform the recently bid Romig Road Project.”

 

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.