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Thursday, October 04, 2007

More on Kalin’s Small Potatoes

The total price of replacing the I-35W bridge and related costs could reach $393 million according to the Pioneer Press.

All of us should be concerned with the enormous cost of this project. While many Dems are aghast at the price tag, Rep. Jeremy Kalin (D-17B) is still counting the small potatoes. See his press release which was also published in the various local newspapers this week.

Probably more than $393 million will be spent, but Kalin is locked on to two small dollar figures when compared to the hundreds of millions: 1. “...up to $26,000 of her [Mn/DOT's Sonia Morphew Pitt] taxpayer-paid travel was for personal pleasure...” and 2. “...excessive bonuses going to the losing bidders of the 35W bridge contract – to the tune of $600,000...”

Regarding the first point, the personnel review underway may very well disclose some improper use of tax dollars, but it would probably be far less than $26,000. No one who pays taxes wants government waste, but Kalin is so occupied with this that he has not expressed any proper concern in his latest article about the extremely large cost of the project.

Second, his complaint about excessive bonuses for the losing bidders ignores that it is required by state statute. Chapter 161.3426, Subd. 3 mandates:

"The commissioner shall award a stipulated fee not less than two-tenths of one percent of the department's estimated cost of design and construction to each short-listed, responsible proposer who provides a responsive but unsuccessful proposal."
Doing this math yields a $500,000 stipend for each unsuccessful design-build bidder on a $250 million project. It’s time our legislator reads the requirement of the statutes and quits attacking the Pawlenty/Molnau administration for supposed incompetence in this area. Whether a Republican or Democrat administration, this is the law–end of matter.

The design-build concept is relatively new to state law. According to former legislator Phil Krinkie, this provision was put in place in 2001 to fast track the Hiawatha Light Rail Line and was supposed to save money. The stipend that consumes Kalin is small potatoes compared to the rest of the provisions of the law. Rather than taking the lowest bidder, it provides for accepting the bid of “best value.”

Mn/DOT has selected the highest bid–$57 million more than the low bid. Another $27 million can be had through bonuses. And this bidder has the longest work schedule by more than two months. These are issues that Kalin should be pursuing because these are the big potatoes.

The real problem is the “best value” law which is administered by bureaucrats which has given us the boondoggle of the excessive cost of LRT, now the bridge, and more to come. The idea isn’t working and should be removed from state law. The lowest, qualified bidder system worked well.

Eventually Kalin may complain about these excessive costs, but it is doubtful he will address the law that creates it because that law caters to liberal thinking. He’d rather use the small potatoes improperly or merely potentially to attack a Republican administration than address true government waste.


Anonymous said...

Just remember: when talking about Jeremy Kalin and his inablility to understand cost and cost effectiveness, this is a man who has a BFA degree in ceramics. It's going to take more than a wheel full of mud to construct this bridge.

Elephant Herd said...

There are many people in the trades who do not have a bachelor degree who are fully capable of understanding what Kalin needs to comprehend. To be successful in business for one's self or one's boss, a person in the trades, and even the arts, must understand cost, structural integrity, and aesthetics. Without understanding these factors in the end product, one can never present it successfully to a potential client or evaluate a product or tool for use in the trades or arts.

Ignoring the big potatoes (big cost in this case) will never lead to success.

Anonymous said...

Please read this week's Chisago County Press for a Letter to the Editor response to Kalin's press release. It captures the essence of what you both are refering to.