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City hopes third time is charm on industry bids

Following questions and a protest over irregular bids,Brookhaven aldermen voted Tuesday to seek bids for a third time onan industrial development project.

City officials are attempting to award a contract to install arail spur to a Cortez Byrd timber operation off of Eastpark Lane.The project has received a $250,000 state rural impact grant.

Aldermen last week delayed bid action in order to seek legalclarification on whether the apparent low bidder’s submission wasirregular because the project was not identified on the outside ofthe bid document envelope. After talking with the AttorneyGeneral’s Office, City Attorney Joe Fernald said Tuesday that thecompetitiveness of Marta Track Constructors’s $168,113 bid was notcompromised by the omission.

“It’s merely something we asked to identify the project,” saidFernald, explaining that there could have been a problem if thecity were opening bids on another project the same day. “(Then) itcould have been opened for the wrong project.”

However, Cameron Smith, a representative of Smith RailwayServices, which submitted the next-lowest $188,389 bid, thenchallenged whether Marta included the proper non-resident bidderdocumentation. Marta has a Louisiana operation and is headquarteredin Georgia.

While aldermen handled other meeting business, Fernald attemptedto seek an answer on Smith’s objection. The attorney was unable toget a quick answer.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron suggested the project beresubmitted for bids.

“It’s so many questions over these bids, the best thing to do isrebid,” Cameron said.

After a brief discussion, aldermen voted 4-0-1 to rebid.Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner and Ward Five Alderman Tom Smithwere not present at the meeting and Ward Six Alderman Buddy Allenabstained due to a prior personal association with Smith.

The board decision upset Smith, who said he had the only “100percent legal” bid and questioned whether justice was being done bythe board action. He also said it was not fair that EngineeringAssociates was charging bidders $75 for bid packages each time theproject is advertised.

“It’s obvious Engineering Associates is making the money,” Smithsaid. “It’s not a lot of money, but they’re making money.”

Mayor Bob Massengill said Smith’ concerns would be conveyed tothe engineering firm. City officials said they would begin theprocess of advertising the project for a third time.

In the first instance, bids were rejected due to irregularitiesover per-foot costs for rail spur installation. Officials alsowanted to see if the company could do some of the work itself in aneffort to lower the costs.

In the second advertisement, four bids were received. One wasnot opened due to an irregularity and a $150,399 bid from CRG, ofHattiesburg, was deemed irregular because a project addendum wasnot properly acknowledged.

Another concern that has been mentioned at meetings is costs toByrd in the project.

In addition to the rail spur, an estimated $90,000-$100,000switch and engineering fees must come out of the grant funds. Byrdis responsible for any amount not covered by the grant.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen approved an interlocalagreement with the county regarding a Homeland Security Operationsguide.

“It’s a fairly cut and dried thing,” Massengill said.

Aldermen, though, did want some clarification regarding whowould be in charge in the event of a terrorism incident in thecity.

Massengill said he would contact Homeland Security DirectorClifford Galey, Police Chief Pap Henderson and Fire Chief PaulCartwright to develop an incident chain of command. Officialsstressed the importance of cooperation in times of emergencies.

“That’s the main thing. Everybody should be able to worktogether,” Cameron said.

Also Tuesday, aldermen approved an emergency approximately$14,000 emergency repair for a front-end loader transmission in theSolid Waste Department. Traffic Supervisor Jimmy Furlow, who istemporarily overseeing solid waste operations, said the repairwould take three to four weeks, and the city would have to rentequipment if bad weather and clean-up is needed.