In a move that pleased labor union leaders, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday awarded the construction contract for the new jail to a Camarillo firm.
The board voted unanimously to hire Merco Construction Engineers, which submitted the low bid of $31,134,513 on the project. The company's bid edged out HuntCor Inc. of Phoenix by $394,488.
Last month, HuntCor submitted the low bid of $33.2 million on the jail. The supervisors, however, decided to throw out the builder's proposal after deciding that it appeared flawed. They then decided to solicit new bids.
"I'm very pleased to recognize that in (soliciting new bids), we have been able to have a contract that will be awarded to a Ventura County firm," said Supervisor Maggie Kildee, who made the motion at the Aug. 11 meeting to rebid the project. "That means we will have a number of people in this county working on the jail."
Also, Kildee added, the county saved nearly $2 million by rebidding the project.
County labor leaders, who sharply criticized the county for deciding against hiring a Pasadena firm last month to build a scaled-down version of the jail, praised the board members for their decision.
"The gamble paid off," said David Tilman, an official with the electrical workers' union.
Robert Guillen, business manager for the Ventura County Building & Construction Trades Council, added: "At first we didn't like it, but it turned out OK. Everyone is happy."
Merco is a 47-year-old privately held firm that relocated to Camarillo from Los Angeles 10 years ago. It was one of nine companies that submitted sealed bids and the only Ventura County company in the competition.
"We are very pleased to be working so close to home," said Arnold Heirshberg, president of the company. "We want to get out there and do the best job we can."
Of the 23 subcontractors listed by Merco, seven were based in Ventura County and all were from Southern California, with the exception of one firm from Pennsylvania that makes jail equipment.
In addition, nearly all the sub-contractors have pledged to hire local union workers.
"We think it's great," said Ed Kraemer, business agent for the United Assn. of Plumbers, Pipefitters Welders & Apprentices. "It will allow us to have more local jobs for county residents who live here and pay taxes.
"Especially in light of the recession we are going through, it's a big deal to the county just to get the job approved," Kraemer continued. "The supervisors did a good job because they have saved the county money. It really worked out to the best."