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City board rejects low bid for parks project

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday rejected what was the apparent low bid to complete the Sherman Avenue and Civil Rights parks because the contractor failed to follow the bid instructions.

The board voted 2-1 to reject the $642,265 bid from Construction Specialists LLC of Jackson and award the bid to Wildstone Construction Services Co. of Madison, which was the second-lowest bidder with $727,581. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. opposed the decision.

“I had no problem with what they (Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Alex Monsour) voted; it was just my vote and I had a right to vote no,” Flaggs said. He would not elaborate on his decision.

The decision to reject Construction Specialists’ bid came after the board learned it was not signed and did not include specified allowances for contingencies for playground equipment, both were required under the bid specifications.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the contractor admitted the omission in a conversation with a representative for Wier Boerner Allin Architecture, which is overseeing both projects.

The architects, she said, called the contractor to make sure no errors were made because the bid was so much lower than the other four bids. The error, she said was not evident in the bid package.

After admitting the error, Thomas said, the contractor said he was willing to honor the bid and do the project.

“The architect wrote a letter (to the board) that he could not make a recommendation; it would be up to the board to determine whether or not that was an irregularity that could be waived,” she said.

Thomas said she consulted the Mississippi Attorney General’s office and received an opinion that the board would have to determine if waiving the irregularities would be fair to the other bidders — whether or not the error was an omission or “would substantially affect the other bidders.”

Adding the contingencies to the Constructions Specialists’ bid, she said, would increase it by about $89,000 and it would no longer be the low bidder. Thomas recommended the board reject the bids and re-advertise.

“However, if you want to, just reject his bid because he didn’t sign the bid and award to the second bidder,” she said. If the board re-bid the project, she said, it was possible the bids would be higher.

When Flaggs asked about the missing signature and the omission, Thomas said the board could waive the lack of a signature on the bid. The omission, she said, “is a grey area.”

“If he’s the low bidder and he wants to eat (absorb) that $89,000 and honor the bid, that’s to the good of the city because we would save that money,” Thomas said. “However, that’s not fair to the other bidders because he didn’t include it in the bid and it was specified to be in the bid.”

Either way, the board decided, Monsour said, “The integrity of the bid process is going to be in question.

“I just believe everybody knows the instructions, everybody knows what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “This is my opinion, I would go and fall back to the next lowest bidder. If it’s not done right by instruction the next thing would be fall back to the next (lowest) bidder.”

Mayfield said the board had one choice.

“I don’t see where we have too much of an option but to go to the next low bidder,” he said. “If you reject the bids you go back through the whole cycle. We’ve seen before what happens in a case like that. What will more than likely happen is that the estimates are going to be higher. I don’t see them coming back lower.

“The problem you have here is several things were omitted,” Mayfield said. “Not only that, your next lowest bidder is definitely going to come after you (if the Construction Specialists bid is awarded). You really can’t blame him for that.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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