Plans to build a 154-foot wind turbine to generate power for the Milwaukee Port Authority stalled Thursday over the lack of minority and female business participation in the lowest bid on the construction contract.
The Milwaukee Board of Harbor Commissioners tabled action on the contract with the low bidder, Kettle View Renewable Energy LLC of Random Lake. The firm’s bid of $522,900 included roughly $2,000 of work by subcontractors, which would meet the emerging business enterprise designation.
That’s not nearly enough, according to Ald. Robert Bauman, who led the commission’s criticism of the contract.
The alderman said he would not support a contract for city work that did not address the severe unemployment and underemployment problem in his district and others.
“If that means losing $500,000, then we’ll lose $500,000,” Bauman said.
As proposed, a combination of $400,000 in federal renewable-energy stimulus money and grants of up to $100,000 each from the state Focus on Energy Program and We Energies would pay for the wind turbine.
With the federal funding, the contract does not include any specific requirements for emerging business participation. Bauman and other commissioners, though, argued that the low bid from Kettle View fell far short of the goals to generate jobs for city residents.
Randy Faller, a principal in Kettle View, said his firm worked with experienced subcontractors familiar with the intricacies of the excavation and electrical work in constructing a wind turbine. He has been unable to find businesses that offer that experience and emerging enterprise certification.
The commission has limited options: reject all five bids and seek new proposals or approve the contract with Kettle View.
Bauman said he would scrap the turbine project before approving the current proposed deal.
“I don’t see our citizens tolerating this,” he said.
Mayor Tom Barrett “supports strong emerging business requirements in contracting,” said Matt Howard, the city’s environmental sustainability director, whose office proposed the wind turbine. “However, federal law prohibits the Board of Harbor Commissioners from imposing these requirements in this wind energy project.”
Howard said the low bid offers other advantages including the potential for the turbine and the wind tower to be made in the United States. It’s possible the tower would be made in Wisconsin, he said.
Eric Reinelt, the city’s port director, said he would meet with the city attorney’s office and the city’s environmental sustainability office soon to get more input on ways to address the concerns raised by harbor commissioners at the meeting.
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