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City Council approved $13 million coal-hauling contract

Thomas Clatterbuck

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Coal is still king in Springfield. Even as new renewable energy sources are brought online, coal remains the most important energy source for CWLP. But even though coal is critical to energy in Springfield, CWLP is limited by the amount of space at its facilities. They can only store enough coal for about two weeks of peak usage.

To make sure the lights stay on, the City Council voted on the new coal-hauling contract. This three year, $13 million dollar deal was awarded to McLeod Express. McLeod was recognized as having the lowest responsible bid, and has local operations. Their bid was based on a fuel adjustment, and changes based on the price of diesel. If the price stays low, the city could see a refund, but higher prices would mean the price of the contract would go up.

But there was a challenge to the method used to select McLeod. Beelman Truck Co. though that their bid was better overall for the city. Although Beelman’s bid was slightly higher, their bid had a fixed price for fuel. Beelman said that with so much talk of a new gas tax, having a set price would protect the city from price increases down the road. They argued that McLeod’s fuel adjustment might put the city at risk if prices go up and McLeod cancels the contract.

What’s good for the goose

Beelman’s own logic ultimately did them in. The contract says it is for three years, but because either party can cancel the contract with 30 days notice, Beelman said the city really only has a string of 30 day contracts. While this is true, it was also true for the Beelman bid. Despite assurances they would keep their set price if costs went up, there was nothing in the contract to hold them to that.

If there is a new fuel tax, both bids would be adjusted. So the city decided to go with the bid that is lower now, and then see what the future holds.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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