Over Harris’ objection, commission approves Highway Department bids
Published 9:11 am Friday, October 27, 2017
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Over the objection of Commissioner Robert Harris, the Lowndes County Commission voted three-to-one Monday to accept the recommendation of County Engineer David Butts on Highway Department supply items, including fuel.
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The bids were approved with Commission Chairman Carnell McAlpine and Commissioners Dickson Farrior and Joseph Barganier voting “yes” and Harris voting “no.” Commissioner Joshua Simmons was not present.
Bids were awarded by the commission on County Engineer David Butts’ recommendation as follows: Asphalt plant mix, Wiregrass Construction; liquid asphalt, Hunt Refining Company; motor grader blades, Thompson Tractor Company; Striping, Ozark Striping; crushed stone, Vulcan Materials Company; propane, Suburban propane; pipe, Gulf Atlantic Culvert; lubricants, RelaDyne; fuel, Ellis Oil.
Ellis Oil was the low bid for on-road diesel fuel, dyed at $1.92 than RelaDyne at $2.005. However, Ellis was higher on 87 octane gasoline at $2.255 than RelaDyne at $1.858.
However, Butts said the county buys 6,000 gallons of fuel at a time, 2,500 gallons of gas and 3,500 gallons of diesel. He said the overall cost between a local bidder (Ellis) and an outside county bidder, showed the local bid is under $1,000 higher.
On Oct. 10, the Lowndes County Commission went on record with a unanimous vote to ask the county, the Board of Education and various agencies in the county to buy local whenever possible.
Harris objected to the vote on bids saying, “that is not what we voted on at the meeting prior… where the engineer would actually rebid it.”
However, Farrior and Barganier said there was no vote to rebid. And McAlpine agreed there was no motion to rebid.
Butts said it was his understanding that Harris wanted the fuel to be rebid.
Harris said, “We don’t need to create an environment where we are not equally fair to all bidders… We don’t need to let somebody have a monopoly on the county.” He argued that fuel was not bid as an overall item.
Harris said the commission agreed to rebid or Butts would not have been in a process to rebid.
When McAlpine moved to cutoff the debate over Harris’ objections, County Attorney Hank Sanders said the chairman can decide when to cut off debate.
Harris went on the record saying, “This commission is in the process of colluding to create an environment that is not conducive for Lowndes County to do business because we are creating a monopoly.”
He clarified his statement saying, “The county commissioners are colluding to make sure that a local person gets the bids for the gas when another outsider bid less. The county commission would rather pay more taxpayer money out than to save because they are trying to make sure a (local) bidder gets it, and that is nothing but a liability here in the county.”
Harris insisted that the commission originally bid diesel and gasoline items separately and in order to make sure that a local person got the bid, combined the items so that they could fall within 3 percent. He said the combined items still did not fall within 3 percent.
“They turned around and combined them without the consent of the county commission in an open meeting,” Harris said.
In another matter, Butts said geotech work necessary in order for Lowndes County Road 6 to stand up to truck traffic will cost the county about $4,000. The commission voted unanimously to allow McAlpine to sign off on that project.
The commission unanimously approved an appropriation of $2,500 to Central Elementary to help support library activities at the school. In that appropriation $1,000 will come from Harris’ funds and $500 each from Barganier’s, Farrior’s and McAlpine’s funds.
Harris also questioned Sanders about an issue with the Hayneville Plaza, which was torn down.
Sanders said there was a question of title to the building. He said he understood that there was a separate deed to part of the land and that slowed down the situation to get a loan to place a business there. But he said, “My understanding was that it was worked out. That’s what I was told.”