Officials hope to move quickly on bridge project

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

Contractors, subcontractors and supply vendors met with arepresentative from the bonding agency Thursday to view theincomplete Bogue Chitto bridge before submitting bids to finish theproject.

A contract with the original construction company was terminatedby the county board of supervisors Monday.

“Even to have a bonding agency here already is a big step, Ibelieve,” said David Hinote, a consultant with Robert C. Gentle,which was subcontracted by the bonding agency, Great InsuranceCompany of the West (ICW), to oversee the project. “This is thequickest I’ve ever been involved in something like this. Thecontract only went into default last week.”

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MidSouth Construction, the original contractor on the project,went into default May 12. Hinote said bonding agencies are usuallynot even notified of a need until about a month after the contractexpires.

Hinote first met with supervisors three weeks ago, before thecontract was even terminated. There has been no progress on thebridge since September, but supervisors were unable to move forwardlegally until the contract went into default.

Thursday’s meeting was held at the base of the bridge on theeastern bank. Hinote handed out bid packets and tried to answerquestions contractors had on the status of the bridge.

A small bridge over Beaver Creek is nearly complete, lackingonly clean up and paving of roads to the bridge. The main bridge,which crosses the Bogue Chitto River and railroad tracks on BogueChitto Road, lacks one main span, railings and other work.

Hinote said it’s much more difficult to sign a new contractorwhen a project has already begun because a lot of questions cannotbe immediately answered.

As an example, Hinote cited materials already bought for theproject and stored. How much is left? Does it match up to theinventory sheets? Is it still viable for use or has itdegraded?

These and other questions need to be determined in order forcontractors to submit a bid, which covers labor and materials costsas well as other factors, such as the number of working days tocomplete the project.

Hinote was unable to answer many of those questions Thursday,but promised contractors that ICW was willing to work with them assituations developed. He also promised contractors that anyremedial work needed on areas of the bridge already constructedwould be covered by ICW.

A subcontractor on the project questioned whether they would beblamed for the bridge delays or if ICW would allow them to continueto work on the project.

“We would like to carry them on to the terms of the contract,”Hinote said, but added that it was possible that not allsubcontractors would be carried forward.

Hinote said he was requesting the bids be returned by May 27because the bonding agency wanted to move as quickly as possible incompleting the project. He added, though, that with thecomplexities of bidding on a work in progress that may not bepossible.

“Hopefully by next weekend I’ll have some numbers to evaluate,”he said.

District Three Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson said he wasoptimistic that Bogue Chitto residents could see men working on thebridge soon.

“I don’t see why they can’t be on site within a few weeks,” hesaid.

Hinote predicted that if everything goes as expected, the bridgecould be completed this year. Construction on the bridge has beenongoing for more than two years, forcing residents on the easternbank to take a long detour to Fox Road to get to town.

“I sure hope it gets done this year,” he said. “I don’t want tostill be here in 2006.”