County faces lawsuits; bidders say jail contract wrongfully awarded

County faces lawsuits; bidders say jail contract wrongfully awarded »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- An effort to tighten security at the Yakima County jail seems to have hit its own brick wall. A bidding war put the brakes on the project scheduled to start next month.

Yakima County officials say the jail isn't safe. Its locks, doors and cameras date back to the 1970s.

"In technology terms, those are back in the dark ages,” said County Commissioner, Mike Lieta.

It was a long process, but Yakima County recently awarded a Tennessee-based group the security upgrade job.

The Zahner Hansen group won with a $2.7 million dollar bid, on a job estimated to cost nearly double that. Work was scheduled to begin next month. Now, the project has stalled

Two other bidders say they deserve the job and threaten to sue.
Arc Electric of Spokane was the lowest bidder. Yakima County says it didn't give Arc Electric the job because it didn't have the required general contractor's license.

Arc Electric says it would have obtained the license if the county indicated it meant getting the job.

The company's president tells KIMA he's since applied for the license and will sue if the county doesn't change its mind.

"I would like to believe it was an innocent mistake on their part,” Marvin Seal said over the phone.

Lieta tells KIMA it was clearly indicated that a general contractor's license was required for the project.

"This is just the part of doing business,” Lieta said.

Any lawsuit could come at the taxpayer's expense for a project that has had to be done in phases because of higher than expected costs. The county says it’s doing its best to avoid wasting those dollars.

"It's our money, your money, my money, everyone's money,” Lieta said.
For now, the jail is in its own sort of lock up until Yakima County can sort out the contract.

Another contractor is protesting the decision as well. However, its bid is $300 thousand dollars higher than the lowest bid.

Yakima County expects to have the matter settled in a month.