Water Authority Chairman Mike Queen was bothered this week when only one bidder showed up Thursday for one of its latest water projects. The project will bring water to a low income housing facility north of Blue Ridge, called Hidden Valley near Forge Mill. Morganton will help supply water for the project.
“This really bothers me, that we can’t get but one… I hate to see somebody get it by default,”
Queen said during Thursday’s water authority meeting, adding that he’d rather see a competitive bidding process. Three bids were received, two from Atlanta-based companies, and one company from Jasper. Mullins Utility and Contracting from Jasper was the only company to show up at bid-opening on Thursday.
“I would think,”
“that in the environment we live in today, people would be wantin’ (sic) this work. Maybe half a million dollars doesn’t excite people no more.”
McCord offered a few suggestions for the low turn-out, saying it could be the result of a combination of “bad timing,” meaning contractors were unavailable due to other commitments, and bond limitations.
“All of these contractors have down-sized,”
“Their crews have been downsized and their bond capabilities have been downsized.”
As such, contractors are limited to working on one job at a time. Present at the meeting, Commission Chair Bill Simonds asked if the county could assist in the bond process. County Attorney Lynn Doss, however, said it may be possible, but would be complicated, due to federal restrictions and would be more trouble that it was worth.
The other problem with the bid, though, is that it exceeded the allotted amount by almost $126,000. The unofficial bid was $685,553.50. Sloope and Carter Engineer Kurt McCord said the bid needs to be in $560,000 range in order to fit the county’s budget. A Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) pays for $500,000 of the project, while the county pays a matching amount $60,000. Here, McCord explained the county can re-bid the project if it so chooses. However, a re-bid must be advertised for another 30 days. This would cut the project close to its September deadline, when the project is already behind schedule. He added that the county could ask for an extension, but in order to do so is required to show progress and have a contract in place. If not, McCord said, the money could be de-obligated.
The Authority agreed to try to work with the contractor to bring the cost of the bid down. However, if the two parties are unable to come to an agreement, the county will re-bid the project.
McCord said, though, Mullins is committed to working with the county to bring the price of the project down in order to begin construction as soon as possible. McCord is expected to meet with Mullins today to further discuss the deal.