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City moves ahead without Riley Bros.

Poor sewers and crumbling roads are just two of the reasons the City of Morris will rebuild East 2nd Street beginning next spring. The construction work will stretch from Atlantic Avenue to beyond the Regional Fitness Center.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The Morris City Council decided it could no longer wait for Riley Bros.' legal situation to play out.

The council on Tuesday voted to award its contract for this summer's East 2nd Street infrastructure replacement and repair work to Breitbach Construction.

Riley Bros. submitted the low bid on the project, but is still waiting for the State of Minnesota to determine if the company will be allowed to enter into contracts for government work.

The city postponed awarding its East 2nd Street contract in the hopes Riley Bros.' situation in Minnesota would be resolved. However, Chris Riley informed the council Tuesday that it could be several weeks before the company knows its status in the state.

City Manager Blaine Hill said the project is already behind the typical bidding and construction schedule and that work near the University of Minnesota, Morris might not be completed when classes begin next fall if the project is delayed further. The project is scheduled to begin soon after UMM classes wrap up next week.

"These guys have been great," Chris Riley said of the City Council. "They've been very patient and willing to work with us."

Earlier, Riley told the council, "we want to do the work but we understand that you've got a good price and you've got to use it."

Riley Bros.' bid was one of 11 bids submitted. Riley Bros.'s low bid was $1,356,727. Breitbach's bid was only about $14,000 higher, and all but one bid came in under the project engineer's estimate of about $1,907,000.

Riley Bros. currently is suspended from contracting for government work in Minnesota, despite the fact that the federal government and North Dakota have lifted bans that prohibited the company from contracting with those entities for work. South Dakota also is expected to soon lift its ban against Riley Bros.

Riley Bros. representatives are scheduled to meet with State of Minnesota officials in early June.

The suspensions stemmed from legal problems the company encountered when owners Joe Riley and John Riley pled guilty to tax fraud late last year.

The company was "debarred," making it ineligible to enter into contracts with federal, state or local governments. The federal ban was lifted earlier this month. North Dakota's ban was rescinded soon after, and South Dakota officials are expected to do the same soon, Riley said.

Minnesota has been a different story.

"We have not had a lot of dialogue out of the State of Minnesota," Riley said. "I thought we'd have answers quicker than we have after the federal (debarment) was settled. That hasn't happened."

The company is waiting on word from Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Department of Administration and the state Attorney General's office about the company's status in Minnesota. A June 4 hearing to discuss the issue is scheduled.