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Hall commissioners save money by rejecting contract

Change means difference of $13,000 in concrete blocks for prison project

POSTED: August 2, 2014 12:29 a.m.

Hall County is saving about $13,000 after officials changed their minds on a contract for concrete blocks to be used in construction of the new correctional institute.

In a special called meeting Friday morning, the Hall County Board of Commissioners rescinded its earlier vote on the purchase and awarded a contract to Home Depot.

“It will be a much cheaper price for us and will give us some savings in other areas of the project,” Purchasing Manager Tim Sims said.

The board originally voted on July 24 to purchase the building materials from Quality Concrete Block.

But because Home Depot is part of the state-recognized government purchasing cooperative U.S. Communities, county officials were able to negotiate with the big-box retailer outside of the regular bid process.

When Home Depot offered to supply the concrete blocks for about $56,500, county officials moved to scrap the $69,000 contract with Quality.

“There is no limit or threshold for these purchases off state contract,” Sims said. “The bid process has already occurred through the state purchasing department and we can legally piggyback on their contracts. Sometimes these costs are favorable for us and sometimes we have been able to get lower prices by putting out a bid ourselves.”

The board approved the contract with Home Depot based on the unit price of each concrete block, which means costs could rise slightly if more blocks than anticipated are needed.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs said this was necessary to avoid having to vote again on purchasing more blocks.

Yet Commissioner Craig Lutz questioned how the unusual move might influence future contract bids.

“(Quality) did go through the process of doing a bid and doing the work before we kind of circumvented the process ...” he said. “We’re taking businesses and kind of jerking them by the chain.”

County Attorney Bill Blalock said the situation was “unfortunate.”

“Had you known about this, the (bid) never would have been issued,” he added.

The special meeting was called so the construction timeline would not be interrupted. The board doesn’t meet again until Aug. 14.

But the hastily called meeting and turnabout on the contract award caught Quality by surprise.

“I was in the dark about the whole deal,” said Mark Turner, co-owner of Quality, which has locations in Elberton and Athens. “We were not notified ...”

Turner said the regular bid process, which only Quality participated in, is costly and time-consuming, adding the decision by Hall County leaves him hesitant to do business with local governments going forward.

The ordeal also puts into stark relief the difficulty small businesses sometimes have competing with corporate chains, Turner said.

“I’m not saying I would have been able to get close to that price, but just being given the opportunity ... I think we were owed that much,” he added. “I feel like it was gone about in a fairly unprofessional way. More communication should have been there.”

The board also approved other purchases needed for the construction, agreeing to spend $73,000 for poured concrete delivery, $15,000 for rebar and reinforcing steel, $255,000 for detention equipment, $219,000 for electronic systems and $25,000 for electrical work.

Funding for all purchases comes from special purpose local option sales tax VI revenues.

Construction of the new prison on Barber Road began in April.

The facility will cost between $3 million and $4 million to build. Officials have said they expect it to open sometime next year.


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