Dore, Anderson Go Head-to-Head Over Demo Contracts

Tue December 24, 2002 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

The end of the story is a much-publicized boxing match challenge, issued by Art Dore Sr., age 66, to septuagenarian Virgil Anderson. Unable to achieve satisfaction in court or at City Hall, Dore, head of Michigan-based Dore & Associates Contracting Inc., hopes to end a year-long feud over Omaha, NE, demolition contracts with Anderson, head of Omaha’s Anderson Excavating Co.

“This is the way that men are supposed to settle things,” Dore said. “Is he a man or is he a mouse?” According to Dore, there aren’t any other options for settling this dispute.

Dore promises to bow out of future bidding in Omaha if he loses in the ring — three one-minute rounds under the Original Toughman Contest rules. Anderson, who declined an interview, has publicly stated that he refuses to play Dore’s game.

The “game” is one of publicity as much as anything. Dore is founder of, former boxer in and current announcer for the Original Toughman Contest, a traveling amateur boxing show televised on cable. Founded in Bay City, MI, in 1979, the competition is still widely popular. With more than 100 shows a year around the country and runaway TV ratings on the FX network, this Toughman is stronger than ever. Even Mr. T. began his career as an Original Toughman winner. Rules stipulate that each bout consists of three one-minute rounds with a 45-second rest between rounds. It is strictly boxing: biting, wrestling, head butting and kicking are not allowed.

Dubbed “one of America’s greatest promoters of the past 50 years” by the Omaha World-Herald, Dore is noted for his ability to find — and benefit from — the spotlight. Michigan and Nebraska papers have followed the story, with Dore adding to the fray by creating fight monikers for the pair like “Demolition Man Dore” and “Bulldozer Virgil” — “just in case.”

While Anderson strives to belatedly take the high road and many in Omaha consider Dore’s challenge an embarrassment, one Omaha World-Herald reader differs, stating: “What is embarrassing in this industry is when you give a serious bid to a G.C. and someone comes in less than half your price and the G.C. laughs at you. It’s embarrassing when a union finds it necessary to pull its men off a job because a contractor hasn’t paid its benefits. It’s embarrassing when a contractor is indicted for illegal dumping. What Art has done here, because he was screwed by the City of Omaha, is not embarrassing.”

Back to the Start

The beginning of the story is a bit more complicated and obscure. Dore simplifies: “Every time we bid jobs in Omaha, Anderson goes to court about details.”

One instance occurred this summer when the city grossly underestimated the amount of asbestos to be removed on a demolition project. Anderson and Dore sued the city and fought each other over the project for months.

But the most recent details under contention center on whether Dore followed proper procedures when he submitted the lowest bids on two city contracts: one for a riverfront development project, the other a downtown performing arts center.

In May, James Sherrets, attorney of Anderson and M&S Grading, listed as one of Anderson’s subcontractors for the job, claimed that Dore failed to include required information in his bid on the Gallup Organization’s planned riverfront campus, rendering it invalid. Anderson and M&S Grading further alleged that Dore failed to identify which minority subcontractors would be hired and where contaminated soil would be dumped. However, according to the Omaha World-Herald, City Attorney Paul Kratz indicated that Dore did provide the relevant information before the City Council awarded the job. “This is an effort by Anderson to knock out the low bid,” said Kratz.

The petition also claimed that the city should have awarded Anderson, with the second-lowest bid, the project because his is a local company. City ordinances stipulate that preference be given to local companies when bidding against out-of-towners whose cities do likewise. But Kratz countered that the cost difference between the two bids on the $8.1-million contract was sufficient to warrant choosing the Michigan company. Although Anderson has won the city’s last four riverfront site work contracts, its bid this time out was $828,000 higher.

Dore was eventually awarded the job, leading Anderson and M&S to request a county district judge to halt that contract and bar a future contract for the city’s new performing arts center on which Dore beat out Anderson for low bid.

Past Dore Troubles

The recent conflicts aren’t Dore & Associates’ first bout with controversy. The company paid a $25,000 civil penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for alleged environmental law violations during demolition work in St. Paul in 1998. Dore also had to sign a negotiated stipulation agreement banning it from working in Minnesota for one year.

Numerous violations occurred during demolition of three buildings in downtown St. Paul, despite repeated warnings and inspections by MPCA staff from April to July 1998. Most violations involved improper handling or removal of asbestos, from pipe and heating insulation, and mercury, from thermostats and fluorescent bulbs.

Solid waste problems involved lead-acid batteries and appliances that were mishandled or not removed before demolition. MPCA also documented Dore crews pumping untreated wastewater with suspected anti-freeze from the TCF building basement into the storm sewer that feeds to the Mississippi River.

Inspections in 1998 revealed several violations involving asbestos in dry pipe insulation, mercury in fluorescent light bulbs and thermostats, lead-acid batteries, and appliances in the partially demolished buildings. MPCA also saw regulated asbestos containing material on the ground and mixed in with demolition debris. An insufficient amount of water was sprayed on the project, and precautions to prevent fugitive dust emissions from dispersing into downtown St. Paul were inadequate. One month after consultation on these issues, MPCA discovered more crumbling pipe insulation found to contain 20-percent asbestos not included in a previous survey.

Dore and Associates denied all violations.

Tod Eckberg, MPCA compliance coordinator, stressed the importance of inspection and proper abatement work, considering the health risks presented by asbestos and mercury. The MPCA requires the proper removal and abatement of these wastes prior to demolition of buildings because of the health risks associated with the actual demolition of the building and the transport and eventual disposal of these wastes in landfills. Airborne asbestos fibers cause scarring of the lungs and can cause cancer. Mercury is toxic to the nervous system, especially in the developing nervous system of a fetus or young child.

Past Anderson Troubles

Anderson Excavating holds millions of dollars in contracts with the city, but has run into its share of trouble with the authorities.

Last December, Omaha police cited Anderson with three misdemeanor counts of dumping without a permit. When local TV cameramen taped a truck dumping material onto property owned by Anderson Excavating, city officials did a little “digging” and discovered Anderson does not have a permit to dump there.

“Dumping like this where they’re stockpiling building rubble and debris requires a permit,” explained Alan Berns, city inspector. Berns added that it doesn’t matter that Anderson owns the property: if he has no permit, it is illegal to dump.

Police issued a citation for failure to have a landfill permit, failure to have a salvage permit and littering. Company spokesmen defended their innocence and their actions, stating they planned to recycle reusable material rather than burying it in a landfill, but Berns countered with the information that recycling is similar to salvaging, which also requires a permit.

Anderson acquired the necessary permits and cleaned up the property in preparation for heavy industrial use.

Going Forward

Dore insists that if Anderson declines his invitation to rumble, he will carry on bidding on Omaha projects — nothing will change. But changes are already taking place in the city of contested territory.

An ordinance up for an Omaha City Council vote recently would require contractors to list on their bids the city-certified minority subcontractors they intend to use, and to obtain written agreements with them before bids are opened.

The proposal, by Council President Chuck Sigerson, stems from the protracted legal battles between the city, Anderson and Dore. Because part of the dispute centered on whether Dore’s minority subcontractors were legitimate, certifiable and identified within the allowed time frame, Sigerson intends his proposal to clear up confusion about the city’s minority contract goals and requirements, avoid litigation and ensure that certified minority contractors are used.

But Scott Coffman, Omaha project manager of Dore & Associates, said he fears that the proposed change will give minority subcontractors the opportunity to manipulate the bid outcome in favor of local companies and hurt out-of-town contractors’ chances of winning city of Omaha contracts. Theoretically, Coffman said, a certified minority subcontractor could give an inflated quote or no quote at all to an outside company and a lower quote to local companies. The outside company would then have to trim profit from other parts of its bid or find and get certified another minority company in order to offer a bid that could compete.

While Sigerson acknowledged the possibility exists for manipulation by a minority contractor, he didn’t anticipate a problem. But Coffman argued that it’s unrealistic to expect contractors to find nonbiased minority subs and get them certified in the short and frantic amount of time between a project’s advertisement and the bid opening. Sigerson noted that Dore was the only contractor to take issue with his proposal.