Local firm faces challenges securing county bids

One of Mohave Engineering Associates’ projects on Western Avenue near Airway Avenue.

Courtesy/Mohave Engineering Associates

One of Mohave Engineering Associates’ projects on Western Avenue near Airway Avenue.

KINGMAN – Mohave Engineering Associates has provided volumes of surveying and engineering services for Mohave County in past years, so Supervisor Gary Watson wanted to know why they weren’t included for contract awards at Monday’s regular board meeting.

He pulled four items off the consent agenda and grilled Rebecca O’Brien, Mohave County’s procurement director, about giving the lucrative contracts to firms outside the county.

“We put out a new request for qualifications for surveying and engineering services and the top five respondents are on the agenda,” O’Brien replied. “Mohave Engineering did respond to the solicitation, but they were not among the top five qualifications.”

On-call surveyor contracts were awarded to Forsgren Associates of Mesquite, Nevada; Michael Baker International of Phoenix; Ritoch-Powell and Associates of Phoenix; Shepard Wesnitzer of Flagstaff; and Wood, Patel and Associates of Phoenix.

Supervisor Hildy Angius asked if special consideration was given to local firms, but O’Brien said she was bound by state law to score the firms based on their experience and expertise at providing the requested services. It can’t be subjective, she said.

Angius also asked about employees, particularly former county employees that may have gone to work for one of those engineering firms selected for the contracts.

“Anything that can be construed as gaining an advantage for a public employee would be up for scrutiny,” O’Brien answered.

Watson posed the same questions for a Golden Shores erosion repair contract for nearly $91,000 that was awarded to Perco Rock Co. of Panguitch, Utah.

“This is actually a construction contract,” said Nick Hont, development services director for Mohave County. “We are mandated by law that we select the most qualified and give it to the lowest responsible bidder.”

Donna Crouse, communications coordinator for Mohave Engineering, said the issue is about qualification criteria, which are determined by county staff and selection committees.

“Our specialties are limited to what local demand has needed,” Crouse said Tuesday. “Drainage, intersections, surveying. Obviously our survey team has a lot of detailed experience in 30 years of past work for the county. So the problem we deal with is even though local consultants have greater experience with the local terrain and local issues, they don’t qualify on broader specialty services that larger firms may have.

“But a good question is why do you need a firm with a climate scientist to do a boundary survey? Why would you go to a brain surgeon in Phoenix if you have a stomach ache?”

Crouse contacted supervisors via email about the difference between qualifying for construction and consulting contracts.

“Each of you are aware of the challenges we face in competing for development on a state level,” Crouse said. “It makes absolutely no sense to me that qualified local development firms who are anchored to the success of Mohave County for their livelihoods and who have committed and invested their work to providing local services within Mohave County are not given consideration of some merit above firms that will charge mileage, per diem and other related costs in order to locate and provide crews for these projects.”