Paving bid rejected; new plan in works

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday formally rejected a downtown streetpaving bid and will seek new bids after engineers revise plans forthe project.

“We’re already laying the ground work to get the projectrevamped,” engineer Jeff Green told the board Tuesday night.

In the bid opening Dec. 6, a $697,146.34 bid from Dickerson andBowen was the only one received. Green said that was about 30percent more than estimated.

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Green said he had spoken to Mississippi Department ofTransportation officials, who recommended the board reject the bidand rework plans. One area the engineer mentioned was base pavingcosts that were twice the engineer’s estimate.

“We’re going to look at trying to get a better handle on that,’Green said.

When the original estimate was prepared, Green said fuel costswere higher and steel prices have been in flux. He hoped to be ableto get “more current” estimates for various bid specificationcomponents.

Green said officials have also discussed not milling or pavingas much of Jackson Street. He said that could reduce some materialcosts.

“We may not get as much work done as we want, but we’ve got tolive within the budget limits of the project,” Green said.

City officials have said the bid is about $150,000 more than isavailable for the project. The city is using accumulatedtransportation funds and city funds to pay for the work.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron questioned whether Dickersonand Bowen was “monopolizing” the local market and if the city wouldget a better price from other companies. Green pointed out that thecompany has its own asphalt plant here.

“It’s going to be very difficult for someone to compete againstthat,” Green said.

Mayor Bob Massengill emphasized that the bid rejection was not amajor setback for the project. He said officials had not planned tohave the paving work done until after the first of the yearanyway.

Regarding another project, Massengill said he participated in arecent conference call with engineers and transportation officialsto discuss the status of the city’s multi-modal transportationfacility. The project is hold as officials consider the city’sfinancial commitment in the venture.

Massengill said architect Michael Barranco will be at the Jan.18 meeting to give the board an update on the project. The mayorsaid the board could then decide whether or how to proceed with theproject.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen approved a new handbook forcity employees. The new policy manual had been in the works foryears and aldermen finalized the document during a recent worksession.

“The changes are according to our last work session,” saidMassengill, referring to some leave policy, driver training andother decisions.

Ward Five Alderman Tom Smith raised a question about payingemployees to attend a three-hour defensive driving course.

“I can’t see compensating with extra money … to be punishedfor something,” Smith said.

The handbook requires employees who were determined to be atfault to attend the course after their first accident. Terminationmay result if an employee is deemed to be at fault in two accidentswithin a two-year period.

Regarding driving course compensation, City Attorney Joe Fernaldsaid labor laws require payment for time if attendance ismandatory. He said the driving course was not intended aspunishment, but remediation.

“We’re trying to improve their driving,” Cameron added.

Massengill suggested the employee be sent home early one day inorder to offset attending the driving course at night.

Smith asked the board to disregard his comments. Following morediscussion, Massengill said situations would be handled on anindividual basis but employees would be compensated for drivingcourse attendance.

In a related matter, Cameron questioned whether the handbook canbe amended in the future. Other officials said it could be at anytime, and Fernald said it should be reviewed every three years.

“That will be ongoing,” Massengill said about possible policychanges.

The vote on the handbook was 6-1, with Ward Two Alderman TerryBates opposed. In earlier discussions, Bates has voiced oppositionto exempting emergency personnel from the driving courserequirements because of their work conditions.

City Clerk Mike Jinks said the handbooks will be printed anddistributed to employees later this week. The handbook takes effectJan. 1.

Also Tuesday, the board approved a lease with Cellular South forthe company to lease space on the old smoke stack.

Terms call for the company to pay the city $1,500 a month forthe space. Company officials said the smoke stack site is expectedto improve reception and coverage.

“This may be something we want to market to other cell phonecompanies,” Massengill said.

In another phone matter, Cameron questioned a $613 phone billfor the fire department. He also mentioned a $405 bill for thewater department.

“We need to find out why this bill is so high,” Cameronsaid.

For the fire department, the bill covers phones at threestations and an Internet connection. The board agreed to pay thebill, but Massengill suggested a study be done over the next fewweeks of regular and cell phone costs.

“If we can do something to lower the bill, we need to do it,”Cameron said.

Aldermen also approved a resolution recognizing the BrookhavenPanthers football team winning the Class 4A state championship. Theresolution is expected to be presented to coaches at the next boardmeeting.