Blue Sky pulls out; Lynch alone
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · October 05, 2012

After a sometimes heated discussion Monday by West Branch City Council members over the Cookson property, one of the developers on Tuesday withdrew their bid.

The council at its Sept. 17 meeting leaned toward a bid from Lynch’s Excavation. But Monday council members Dan O’Neil and Jordan Ellyson argued that Lynch’s submitted an incomplete bid and, perhaps, the council should only consider Blue Sky Developers.

However, Blue Sky contacted City Hall Tuesday morning and withdrew its bid from consideration, leaving Lynch’s bid the only one left.

“When I heard how Lynch’s (bid) compared with ours, I felt it was the right move,” Blue Sky partner Faye Swift said Tuesday morning. “There is no way my partner and I can afford to tear down the building.”

Lynch’s Excavating offered $5,000 for the Cookson property and agreed to tear down the structure.

Blue Sky Developers Inc. offered $1 and asked the City of West Branch to tear it down and remove the parking areas, sidewalks, trees, etc.

“It didn’t warrant further discussion,” Swift said.

When the city council met Monday, O’Neil, who missed the Sept. 17 meeting, pointed out that Blue Sky provided the city with the only full, five-point bid; Lynch’s only gave a purchase price and agreed to tear down.

The city over the summer put forth a “Request for Sealed Bids on the Cookson Property” which stated that “Interested developers are encouraged to provide a proposal with the following information …” by Sept. 14:

• Narrative explaining the proposed development

• Preliminary layout illustration of proposed development

• Proposed reimbursement to the City for the property

• Proposal for stormwater management on the site

• Proposal for providing right-of-way for potential extension of Second Street to the south

O’Neil asked the council if it wanted to continue considering both bids.

Council member Mark Worrell balked at that suggestion Lynch’s bid should be rejected, saying no one at the Sept. 17 meeting mentioned Lynch’s bid did not provide all five points or state it lacked important information.

City Administrator Matt Muckler said it is up to each council member’s “interpretation” whether bids are complete.

Larry Lynch, owner of Lynch’s Excavating, provided an illustration prior to Monday’s meeting that was not included in the Sept. 14 bid.

“Why was that illustration not complete two weeks ago?” O’Neil asked.

City Attorney Kevin Olson pointed out that this “is not a public improvement project,” but a private development.

O’Neil argued that the bid process was open for several weeks, giving bidders “plenty of time” to turn in their information.

Council member Colton Miller felt the bids were more like proposals, “(not) binding agreements.”

Ellyson said those who wanted to bid were each given the same five “requirements.”

Worrell asked O’Neil if he wanted to “throw out” Lynch’s bid.

“Do you want to allow non-complete bids?” O’Neil responded.

Miller said he did not feel answering all five points “was that big a deal.”

O’Neil said he spoke with both Lynch’s and Blue Sky after the bids were opened and that Blue Sky is willing to cover the cost of demolition in exchange for the city “waiving building permits, water connection fees and water meter/meter reading fees.”

Worrell felt that was new information and should not be considered since it was not included in Blue Sky’s sealed bids. He said it was unfair to Lynch’s Excavating because Blue Sky made the offer after finding out what was contained in Lynch’s bid.

“That changes the bid,” he said. “You can’t do that.”

Olson said it was legal to negotiate with a developer after the council selected one.

“You’ve got to pick somebody to negotiate,” he said.

Worrell said O’Neil’s discussions with the two developers were “wrong.”

“If somebody did this to me, I would never work in this s---hole the rest of my life,” he said. Worrell owns his own excavation company.

O’Neil also looked at each bid illustration — each developer’s sketch of how houses and/or duplexes would fill the 3.5 acres of property — and estimated tax revenues for up to 30 years. He determined Blue Sky’s plan, which favors single-family homes, would bring in about $488,000 in taxes, while Lynch’s plan, which includes duplexes, would bring in about $379,000 in taxes. By those figures, Blue Sky’s development brings in about $110,000 in more taxes to the city, he said.

Worrell stated that O’Neil should have included the rest of the council in his discussions with the developers, and that those discussions should have taken place at a public meeting.

Lynch agreed that O’Neil called him, but that O’Neil never said Lynch’s bid was short on information.

“If this goes much further into negotiations, I will walk,” he said. “My offer stands. It’s a good deal for the city.”

O’Neil asked him to elaborate on “negotiations.”

“All this water meter — reimbursement for demo — where did that come from?” Lynch said.

Mayor Don Kessler emphasized that the city asked for sealed bids.

“I’m not borrowing $100,000, or, whatever, $40,000, — which I know is ridiculous because it can’t be done — to remove the parking lot and the building,” Kessler said.

The council planned to select a developer at the Nov. 5 meeting. On Tuesday, Muckler said he will now only bring a proposal from Lynch.

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