Steamboat Springs Contractors confronted Hayden officials last week about an online bidding process the town aimed to test drive.
Hayden planned to use BidBridge, an online reverse auction company, to contract for Poplar Street improvements. But several contractors spoke against the system during Thursday's Town Board of Trustees meeting.
Louisville, Ky.-based BidBridge arranges for sellers to bid online for projects. The contractors have a 30-minute window to enter a bid. Bidders can't see who else is bidding or what the other bids are, but they can see where their bids rank, from highest to lowest.
Native Excavating owner Ed MacArthur said he didn't trust the method.
"You just arbitrarily could put some number in, in the beginning of this process, and then you're allowed to work your number down and consistently see where you stand in the line of bidders," he said Tuesday.
Traditionally, contractors submit sealed paper bids, and the town opens them all at the same time. Hayden isn't obligated to go with the lowest bid.
Cindy Sisloff, BidBridge's director of marketing and business development, compared the process to eBay. A key difference, however, is that if a company puts in a lower bid in the last three minutes of bidding, the clock resets for another three minutes to give others a chance to respond.
"Our process was structured to mirror the paper bidding process but allow the suppliers to place multiple bids if they choose to," Sisloff said.
Contractors including MacArthur are worried that bidders could get emotional, deciding they must win the contract and entering a bid that's unrealistically low.
Peter Langlois, BidBridge's director of operations, said he'd seen that just once in more than 1,000 auctions.
Hayden Trustee Jim Haskins said he didn't understand contractors' concerns.
"The bottom line is, we have a good idea of what it's going to cost to do this project, and if somebody comes in at way below that number, we're not committed to awarding that bid," Haskins said.
No matter the process, the town of Hayden could award the bid to whichever company it feels comfortable with, Sisloff said.
BidBridge signs up contractors ahead of time and trains them to use the system. Bidders also receive a toll-free number to call in case they hit snags. If a bidder's Internet goes out, for example, BidBridge would put bidding on hold. The company has worked in 29 states, including Colorado, Sisloff said.
Hayden had planned to bid the Poplar Street contract today but is holding off to take care of engineering procurement requirements and because of contractors' concerns, Town Manager Russ Martin said. He hopes to have new bid dates available next week.
"I want to stop it, re-engage : and make sure we do this process right," Martin said.
MacArthur said he expected the town to reconsider using an online bidding system.
"I think our point was made, and I think the town did a little more research and came to a different conclusion," he said.
But Haskins said that wasn't yet decided. BidBridge saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on construction projects, Sisloff said. Haskins said Hayden officials would like to award the contract locally but have taxpayers' priorities in mind.
"Our job is not to have local contractors getting the job as it is to get the best deal for the town and have it done right," Haskins said.