A Utah company is the apparent low bidder at $12.8 million for a new state library and archives building - far below the expected $17.5 million price tag.

But the bid from Big D Construction Corp. of Ogden is being protested by Mardian Construction of Phoenix, Ariz., second-lowest bidder at $13.4 million, the state public works board said Friday.Six bids were submitted, ranging from Big D's low bid of $12.8 million to a high bid of $13.8 million from Layton Construction of Salt Lake City for the project authorized by the 1989 Legislature.

Richard Knapp, the PWB project manager for the job, said the bidding was tight and surprisingly low, especially considering the high bids that came in earlier this year and forced a revision of the project.

The initial bids, opened in March, ranged from $23 million to $24 million. The PWB then scaled down the project by trimming items such as imported granite and limestone exteriors, an outside fountain and an underground parking garage.

Knapp said the second-round bids were lower than expected because "there isn't as much construction going on now, and maybe they're a little more hungry. They're sharpening their pencils."

He also said the protest will have to be reviewed by the board and also by the attorney general. The board had hoped to see construction start before the 1991 Legislature convenes in mid-January, but that will be delayed until the dispute is settled.

Knapp also said there's a possibility some of the items dropped from the project could be reinstated, "but in any case there will be a significant savings to the state."