A small consolation for those voting unsuccessfully against last year's school millage rate increase proposal was the hope that a significant portion of the $101 million raised among the Ludington Area School District (LASD) taxpayers would be spent locally and remain in the local economy. Those hopes have been dashed, and it's not just because local contractors bidding successfully have been ignored by the project managing team of the Christman Company, whose nearest office in in Grand Rapids, but also by the school board, as was the case when they totally ignored a responsive bid by locally based Nordlund & Associates to accept another bid nearly twice as high.
After that bid mistake, the school board agreed last month to 19 more subcontractors presented by Christman Company for their approval. These selections were identified by the local newspaper:
If you don't recognize any contractors coming from Mason County, you are not mistaken. If you don't recognize any contractors from a neighboring county, you are not mistaken. In fact, other than two contractors coming out of Muskegon County, you have to go at least three counties away to find our school's hired contractors. Here's where they are located, and a link to their official web page.
Grand Rapids: https://straightlinefences.com/
Byron Center: https://reliablesm.com/contact/
* Byron Center: https://buistelectric.com/
Is it any surprise that 12 of the 17 companies located, came out of Kent County, the same county Christman Company comes from? It may, because a lot of folks last year were selling this project as a boon for area contractors who would see some work come their way. They are not, this is a boon for Kent County contractors, with a token one or two coming from Ottawa, Kalamazoo, and Muskegon Counties.
They may grab a lunch here, maybe some will even spend some time in our local motels, but the money for labor and materials is going elsewhere. Our economy will see very, very little; we will have a new elementary, and a bigger secondary school, but around $100 million will leave our county to do so.
One other important point should be noticed: when the losing companies were taken into account for these 18 areas of subcontracting, there was once again a dearth of local companies in the running for the positions. The bidders and their bids are in this school board packet, and unlike the previous bid that failed to take the low bid, each and every bid approved at the June school board meeting were the low bids. Once again, however, we note that 24 out of 44 of the losing contractors came from Kent County and a grand total of one contractor came from Mason County or any of its neighbors. Here's a list of their location, their names, and their websites:
GR: Fence Consultants https://fenceconsultants.com/contact/
GR: Twin Lakes Nursery http://www.twinlakesnursery.com/
Ludington: Larsen's Landscaping(3)
Holland: Sinclair Recreation LLC https://sinclair-rec.com/contact-us/
Ohio: Midstates Recreation(3) https://www.midstatesrecreation.com/
Brighton: Penchura(4) https://www.penchura.com/contact_us/
Grant: Versatile Roofing Systems http://www.versatileroofing.net/contact/
Jenison: Great Lakes Systems, Inc.(3) https://www.glsroof.com/contact-us
Muskegon: J Stevens Construction(4)* https://www.jstevensconstruction.com/
Dorr: Modern Roofing, Inc.(5) https://modernroofinginc.com/
TC: Traverse City Glass Co. http://traversecityglass.com/
TC: Northern Michigan Glass(3) https://www.northernmichiganglass.com/
GR: Double O (4) https://www.doubleoinc.com/
Flint: Calvin & Co. (5) https://calvincompanyinc.wordpress.com/contact/
GR: Premiere Caulking Inc https://www.premiercaulkinginc.com/
Marne: Custom Caulking Inc(3) http://www.customcaulking.com/
Hudsonville: CJ's Coatings (4) https://cjscoatingssealants.com/
GR: BCI Construction LLC https://www.bcimi.com/
TC: Grand Traverse Construction(3) https://www.grandtraverseconstruction.com/
TC: Hallmark Construction(4) https://hallmarktc.com/
GR: GR Glass & Door Inc.(6)
Saginaw: Graham Construction(7) https://grahamconstruction.net/
Soble Company Inc ?
GR: The Bouma Corporation(3) http://www.boumacorp.com/
GR: Schepers Brothers Co.(4) http://schepersbrothers.com/
Beverly Hills: Kuhn Specialty Flooring http://kuhnspecialtyflooring.com/
Wixom: Foster Specialty Floors(3) https://www.foster.us/
GR: Star Flooring (4) https://starflooringinc.com/
Walker: Phoenix Interiors http://www.phoenix-interiors.com/
Corunna: Superior Floor Coverings LLC (3) https://web.shiawasseechamber.org/ConstructionContractors/
Grandville: Johnson Comercial Interiors (4) https://johnsonscommercialinteriors.com/
Muskegon: Dimension Four Painting Inc.
Walker: Halligan (3) http://www.halliganpainting.biz/
Comstock Park: Valley City Sign https://www.valleycitysign.com/
Grandville: Praise Sign (3) https://www.linkedin.com/company/praise-sign-company
Cedar Springs: Dependable Fire Protection Inc. http://www.dependablefireprotection.com/
Belmont: Brigade Fire Protection (3) https://brigadefire.com/
GR: Total Fire Protection Inc. (4) https://www.totalfire.biz/
Comstock Park: Van Wall Fire Protection (5) https://vanwallfire.com/
GR: Rite-Way Plumbing & Heating Inc http://www.ritewayinc.com/
Cedar Springs: Northwest Kent Mechanical Co. (3) https://www.nwkentmech.com/
GR: B & V Mechanical Inc (4) https://www.bvmechanical.com/
Brighton: Amcomm Telecommunications http://www.amcomminc.com/
Zeeland: Town and Country (3) https://www.tcgroupinc.com/telecom-contractors/
GR: Shareco Communications (4) http://shareco.com/
GR: Moss Telecommunications Systems (5) https://www.mosstele.com/
Spring Lake: Electromedia (6) http://www.electromediainc.com/
GR: Merchandise Equipment & Supply https://www.merchandiseeq.com/
Mattawan: Great Lakes West (3) https://www.greatlakeswest.com/
The one company from Mason County, Larsen's Landscaping, just happens to be a company that the school had violated their own competitive bidding process in previous years in choosing them over another local landscaping business who bid much lower for the general landscaping contract for LASD properties. LASD is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with that company, and really doesn't seem to have a valid defense against the favoritism.
The next closest loser is from Muskegon County, the lone Newaygo County company being over 80 miles away in Grant. One could infer from this disparity one of two things. Either the Christman Company was favoring its own set of contractors nearby to their GR headquarters and not considering local contractors of Mason County or that there is a scarcity of qualified contractors looking for work in our county and the surrounding counties.
While the latter may have some truth in some of the specialized areas that they were looking for contractors (such as for playground equipment and gym floor surfacing), it doesn't seem to come true when you look at much of the other work-- especially when you look at the electrician work for the electrical system. When an asterisk was placed beside Buist Electric earlier, that asterisk indicated that there was only one bid placed for that service. The LASD bylaws do not approve having just one qualified bidder get a contract, the usual policy is to repost the request for proposals and seek out qualified companies that could submit bids.
Those familiar with the Ludington area know that we have a fair share of experienced electricians, such as Ludington Electric, Greene Electric, Rees Electric, Anderson Electrical Services, and Superior Electric. Were these and the many other electricians in a 50 mile radius given any chance to know about the request for proposals and submit a bid so as to keep costs low?
Likely not, nor would they have likely been given the opportunity if they actually had the low bid, as Nordlund & Associates found out. Our school board and Christman appears to not really care about conserving your hard-earned money for this project, nor do they care that many trades and businesses in our area are undergoing tough times due to the governor's mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.
The lesson our school board is teaching us during this construction is that spending the money from our taxpayers locally is not going to happen, this money will almost entirely go to companies and individuals three or more counties away from us. This tough lesson to learn cannot help but damage our fragile local economy.
Well done X. There is no shortage of qualified contractors in the Ludington area. This is another example of cronyism and bid rigging and Ludington's local politicians have played along with it. One might ask, why? It may just be the $100,000,000 being sucked from taxpayers pockets with a lot of it going into the pockets of local bad actors who pushed this ill conceived project thru. This is no different than the Consumers wind turbine boondoggle. We were promised that there would be a boat load of jobs created in order to build the turbines. That was just a lie. The only local contractors used on the turbines were concrete contractors. The rest came from out of State and much of the material to build the turbines came from out of the Country. Locals are treated like country bumpkins by all the greedy entities trying to get their hands on our money. The citizens who voted for the school project don't know how badly they are getting fleeced by local politicians and outsiders. Every crooked politician is making money off the hard working people of the area.
I like your comparison to the wind project, because even though it may look at first glance as if the mechanisms behind funding both projects were different, they weren't all that different as the public heavily subsidized both projects (Lake Winds doing it more sneakily. They also are very similar in that their end project will have dubious worth to the general public each project supposedly serves. In less than 20 years, there will be a lot of wind turbines to either tear down or costly replace with a ton of public subsidies, in about 30 years the new school will need to be replaced and the figures will likely run into several hundreds of millions of dollars.
'Sustainability' is a term these people throw out as they spend million and millions on folly projects, but they are only sustainable through the inefficient use of the public's wealth, which has its limits.
The statement of sustainability can be productive, but must revolve around both financial and environmental. If you build out infrastructure (whether "green" or traditional), it can play the role of environmentally focused, but if it does not pay for itself long-term or has a solid financing structure, it is a waste of money. Relying on another entity, tax credit or "rainbows and sunshines" to pay for ongoing expenditures pull the decision making away from yourself which is the antithesis of liberty.