The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

DOE moves ahead with Paducah infrastructure pact

A Paducah firm's winning bid at the gaseous diffusion plant is to be honored despite a protest.

By Joe Walker
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 270.575.8656

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Despite a new bid protest, U.S. Department of Energy officials say they will honor a $39.9 million infrastructure contract awarded last month to Paducah's Swift & Staley.

The procurement process was questioned Friday when a group of small firms doing business as Western Kentucky Services filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. A decision deadline was set for July 25.

"This was a highly competitive process with many bidders, and we intend to move ahead with the contract as awarded," DOE spokesman Mike Waldron said Monday. "We continue to believe that this contract represents the best value for both the taxpayers and the community."

Waldron said the department has no plans to re-evaluate any of the other proposals. Swift & Staley President Pat Holsapple was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Infrastructure and cleanup work at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant employ about 550 people under contract with Bechtel Jacobs and various support firms. DOE plans to break the work into two contracts — one for infrastructure and another for cleanup — but the process has been delayed for two years, most recently by 11 protests in the hiring of new cleanup contractors at Paducah and Piketon, Ohio. The GAO has dismissed all but two of the protests.

Last week, Waldron said DOE planned to re-evaluate the cleanup bids from technical and cost standpoints to try to make a selection as soon as possible. He could not estimate when a new contract would be awarded.

It is unclear how the review will affect the $303 million winning bid of North Wind Paducah Cleanup Co., announced in January. DOE has repeatedly extended Bechtel Jacobs' contract, most recently through August, and is prepared to extend it again. Waldron was not immediately sure if the department could implement the new infrastructure contract without resolving the cleanup part.

Local economic development officials and federal lawmakers continue to express concern that the delays will hurt cleanup schedules and funding. Because of the delays, Sen. Jim Bunning last week protested the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee's nomination of David Garman as new undersecretary of energy.

Mike Reynard, Bunning's press secretary, said Monday that Bunning "is working directly with Secretary (Sam) Bodman to resolve the problem as quickly as possible."

Last month, in a meeting with Paducah area business and government leaders, Bodman said he had ordered an internal review of the procurement process to avoid further extensive delays.