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Superior companies lose bids for schools to Duluth firms

Bill Stack's office at Stack Brothers in Superior is a flutter of paperwork on most days.

Financial forms are checked and rechecked, and thick binders for work contracts at refineries circulate the office; but other documents are kept safely in places of honor.

One of those documents is under glass on a desk in Stack's office. When he has visitors, he proudly draws their attention to the sheets of aging paper.

"This was signed by my great-grandfather," Stack says.

The document, dated 1894, is an agreement between the Superior Board of Education and Stack Brothers for work on the Peter Cooper School Building.

"It would have been kind of cool to take a contract for Cooper School written in 2017 and put it next to one for Cooper School from the 1890s," Stack said. "But that's in the past; that's over now."

Stack Brothers is one of five Superior-based companies to put in bids for work on the Cooper and Superior High School construction projects. So far, none have been awarded contracts.

Through the Superior School Board's last meeting to award contracts on March 27, Stack Brothers had bid on three items, while JR Jensen had bid on two. Superior Glass Inc., Benson Electric and Belknap Electric had bid on one item each.

Northern Interstate Construction, a South Range company, also came up short in its two bids for the Cooper earthwork and demolition contracts.

"It costs us a lot of money to bid a job," Stack said.

Between paperwork, site visits and interviews, the investment in time and personnel adds up quickly, he said.

Janna Stevens, Superior school district administrator, said the district is committed to using local contractors whenever possible.

A Superior company has yet to win a contract, but Duluth companies have been very active and successful in the bidding process.

Of the 43 contracts awarded so far, 19 have gone to Duluth and two others have gone to Hermantown.

"Obviously our hope was that many of our people right here in Superior would bid," Stevens said. "However, for local, I think we have to think of the Twin Ports."

On Monday, another round of bids will be discussed at 1:30 p.m. at the Superior school district's administration office, 3025 Tower Ave.

The Superior School Board is scheduled to vote on six contracts for the SHS project — building demolition, selective demolition, and packages for mechanical, electrical, structural and concrete.

Stack Brothers is bidding for the mechanical contract, while both Benson Electric and Belknap Electric are trying for the electrical contract.

A second bid concerning Stack Brothers — for the SHS demolition contract — will also be decided at the meeting. The Superior School Board tabled the contract March 27.

Patrick Gallagher, senior project manager for Kraus-Anderson, said the Board delayed its vote because Stack Brothers asked members to consider factors beyond cost alone.

Rachel Contracting had a low base bid of $654,898, while Stack Brothers was second at $705,000.

After the meeting, Gallagher said, Kraus-Anderson learned of past safety concerns surrounding the company it had recommended, Rachel Contracting.

"That recommendation was removed because Stack (Brothers) presented to the Board that night. It was not due to safety issues," Gallagher said.

Rachel Contracting was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations in September 2013 that resulted in the death of an employee. According to the OSHA report, the employee was crushed when overhanging concrete fell to the ground during the demolition of a three-story building.

Gallagher said he has spoken with Rachel Contracting about the accident, which occurred in St. Paul.

A representative for Rachel Contracting did not respond to requests for comment.