Council rejects gas line bids

Published 10:02 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Picayune City Council rejected both bids on replacing the cast iron pipes used to distribute gas in the older part of the city and to seek new bids, but not without a fight.

Councilman Wayne Gouguet wanted the council to award the bid to low bidder T.L. Wallace Construction, Inc. in Columbia.

City Manager Jim Luke had listed the bids on the council agenda with the recommendation to reject the bids and ask for new ones.

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Luke was concerned that the other company that bid on the project, HRL Contracting in Picayune, had filed a protest over the specifications in the city’s invitation to bid.

Gouguet said that both council attorney Nathan Farmer and the Butler Snow law firm in Jackson had issued opinions saying the city could go ahead and award the bid to T.L. Wallace regardless of the protest.

“It’s my opinion that we’re setting ourselves up … to be sued” by rejecting the two bids and asking for new bids, Gouguet said.

Luke said he found the language in the eight page Butler Snow opinion to be ambiguous in part and for that reason he was recommending the council reject the bids and seek new ones. Also, he would like to see new “pressure test point” meters installed in the area of Picayune where the cast iron pipe is being replaced.

Councilman Larry Breland asked Farmer if the city could legally reject the bids and Farmer said yes.

Council member Tammy Valente then asked if the council had two votes on the matter, one to reject the bids in hand and another to advertise for new bids.

Mayor Ed Pinero said yes, there were two votes to be taken on the issue.

The question was then asked about expanding the scope of the work and whether the city had the money to pay for it.

Public Works Director Eric Morris said yes, that the cost for adding the meters to the project was about $20,000 and the bonds the city had taken out for it was $3 million. T.L. Wallace had bid $1.7 million, which Dungan Engineering had estimated to be a $2 million project. In answer to another question from Breland, Morris said that replacing the cast iron pipes in the old part of town would reduce the amount of “unmetered” gas the city was losing, but he didn’t know if the project would take care of all of the unaccounted for gas.

Gouguet asked if the amount of money set aside for the project, should the contractor run into unexpected problems and the work exceed the bid amount, would cover the cost of expanding the project. Brooks Wallace with Dungan said yes that amount was $170,000.

The board voted 3-1 to reject the bids and then 3-1 to advertise for new ones.

Gouguet voted against both motions and Breland, Valente and Stevens voted for both motions. Council member Lynn Bogan Bumpers had the flu, Pinero reported at the beginning of the meeting, and was absent.

In other matters the board approved proclaiming January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the agreement to continue the Main Street program, seeking grants for the Fiskars 2014 Project Orange Thumb, MDOT grants for sidewalk projects at South Side and Roseland Park elementary schools, awarding bids to Huey Stockstill Inc. for the Palestine Cemetery expansion project, to Webster Electric Co. for the transportation enhancement project, travel for police officer Cap. Constance Myers to training in Slidell, La., and for Fire Chief Keith Brown to attend meetings in Birmingham, Ala. And Fairfax, Va.; accepting a donation from Fred’s Super Dollar of $154.06 to purchase handouts for senior citizens and children and to lease a T-hanger to Calvin D. Cooter.