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Kings Point Ferry contract sinks again

[12/10/03]The third time was not the charm for awarding a contract for a new boat and barge for the Kings Point Ferry, but on its second try, Warren County supervisors were able to award a contract to replace a Freetown Road bridge.

Also Tuesday, the board reappointed John Moss and Oren Bailess to the Warren County Port Commission to new terms that begin with the first of the year.

The other three members must also either be reappointed or replaced. John Ferguson and Robert Pickett were appointed by the City of Vicksburg and Howell D. “Hal” Gage was appointed by former Gov. Kirk Fordice.

Commission members are paid a stipend and manage the county’s industrial assets including the E.W. Haining Industrial Center at the Port of Vicksburg and the Ceres Industrial Interplex at Flowers.

In the bid action, supervisors have been frustrated in trying to buy a new boat and barge to take vehicles across the Yazoo River to Kings Point.

Tuesday was the second time the county was prepared to open bids on the ferry boat and barge and was the third time the project had been advertised.

The first advertisement generated a flood of questions from potential bidders and the board decided to postpone the bid opening from September 2002 to December of that year. When the day came to open bids, there were none.

When the board opened the meeting Tuesday, it had in hand two bids for constructing a 35-foot push boat and a 65-foot barge to replace the present boat and barge used at the Kings Point Ferry. The first bid, that of Big River Shipbuilders Inc. of Vicksburg, was rejected because the bidder did not have the company name, the county name and the project number on the outside of the envelope as required in the bid specifications.

After being advised the board could waive that requirement, Board President Richard George said doing so would go against the policy the board had established and followed for years of going strictly by the bid specifications.

“If we do otherwise, companies would be less enchanted with doing business with us,” he said.

When the bid by Tensas Machine and Manufacturing of Newellton was opened, the board found a company official had not signed one of the documents. This resulted in that bid also being deemed nonresponsive to bid specifications.

“We are back where we started,” George said.

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale Jr. then made the motion to reject both bids and to readvertise. Following the unanimous vote to approve the motion, the bids were sealed and returned to the companies unread.

The Freetown Road bridge replacement had been an emergency following the collapse of a section in an April 6 storm. This allowed the county to seek price quotes instead of bids.

However, as the board prepared to open the quotes Nov. 17, County Engineer McKee told the board the Federal Highway Administration office in Mississippi had mistakenly said the project was eligible for federal funds. Based on that erroneous information, McKee and his staff had prepared the project according to federal standards. With the discovery of the error, the project had to be redrawn to meet the requirements of the State Aid Division of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. That delayed the opening of the proposals until Tuesday.

The county received three bids, from T.L. Wallace Construction Co., of Columbia, Dozer Inc. of Natchez and Key Constructors Inc. of Madison.

Key submitted the low bid of $424,397.28 which was 22 percent more than the engineer’s estimate of $347.705.25.

After the bids were checked to make sure they were correctly computed, the county received permission from the State Aid Division of MDOT to award the contract under the Local Service Bridge Program.

The highest of the three bids came from Wallace for $454,568.86.

Under normal procedures, Key will receive a notice to proceed as soon as the contracts and other preliminary paperwork is completed and signed.