The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Sunday, October 26, 2003

Partners here vie for DOE bid work

By Joe Walker jwalker@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

Groups of small firms here are joining forces to bid for up to $24 million a year in Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant work historically done by big governmental contractors.

Although the Department of Energy has not released names, companies that have revealed plans to compete for the work are:

Infrastructure Services Group, composed of Seminole Systems and ELR Consultants of Paducah, and Diaz Construction of Portsmouth, Ohio. The group, as partners with a large engineering firm, Black and Veatch Special Projects Corp. of Atlanta, is doing business out of the ELR office at 702 Jefferson St.

Western Kentucky Services, composed of Murtco, GEO Consultants, LAN Associates/LAN-CON, Chase Environmental Group, Technical and Field Engineering, Innovative Technical Solutions, EL Review & Co., and RS Associates. The team headquarters is the LAN office, 1609 Kentucky Ave.

Both groups have several former plant employees who formed businesses to perform subcontract work for Bechtel Jacobs, the Energy Department's lead contractor. Under the new system, Bechtel is being replaced, and the winning bidder will work directly for the government, rather than in a tiered system of subcontracting.

The Energy Department announced the change in June, saying Bechtel's work would be divided into two contracts implemented in the next nine months. The intent is to put more money and attention on the work. Eliminating layers of costs should lead to greater efficiency, said Guy Van Doren, chief executive officer for Western Kentucky Services.

"Hopefully, it will be at much less cost ultimately for the taxpayer," he said. "I think it will bring more responsibility on the individuals who do the work. We're pretty much private industry-oriented and being small; we can move faster."

The Energy Department also is soliciting interest from small businesses for about $90 million a year in cleanup work now overseen by Bechtel. It is uncertain how many local firms will have the capital and resources to do the work on their own. The bulk of the work has been handled by companies with a national scope.

While the two local teams are the first to disclose they will bid on $20 million to $24 million a year in maintenance work, other firms are expected to come forward with proposals. Examples of the jobs are maintenance of buildings, grounds and roads; environmental sampling, support and records; computing and telecommunications; and security services.

The five-year contract, renewable for another five years, should mean 100 to 150 jobs. Although the work itself is not new, the competing firms say more of the workers will be from the Paducah area than the number under the current system.

"I think our group will fill most of these slots with local people," said Norm Windt, a former plant shift supervisor who joined three other plant retirees to form Seminole Systems for nuclear classification work. "We all live here and are interested in doing a good job for the community. We're not just passing through."

Earlier, DOE said a contract would be awarded by the end of March, when a six-month extension of Bechtel's five-year contract expires. Bill Lindsey, a former plant worker and co-owner of ELR Consultants, said the contract may be extended another six months and bidding will be done accordingly.

As with Western Kentucky Services, Lindsey's group has made its presence known around town. In September, Infrastructure Services gave a total of $1,000 to the Paducah Cooperative Ministry, Paducah-McCracken County Habitat for Humanity and Martha's Vineyard.

Both companies tout their local ties, plant experience and intention of working with the plant atomic workers' union, known as PACE.

Dave Hutcheson, a former plant worker who formed LAN-CON, an environmental compliance firm, said his and two other Western Kentucky Services team members are locally based. The others are Murtco, a mechanical contracting company, and Geo Consultants, a geological engineering business. Other firms in the group have a local presence, he said.

"When you use local businesses, the money stays here and is reinvested here," Hutcheson said. "It's our sole intent to keep this work here and support our local economy."

The Energy Department also is soliciting interest from small businesses for about $90 million a year in cleanup work now overseen by Bechtel.

The five-year contract, renewable for another five years, should mean 100 to 150 jobs.