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Morgan rejects three construction bids due to ‘sticker shock’

 

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

Morgan County commissioners on Tuesday rejected bids on three construction projects involving the jail and sports parks, with one commissioner saying the price tags caused “sticker shock.”

The commission said it plans to use some of the 3M settlement package of $5.4 million it received in 2021 to construct two new concession stands, with one at North Park in Priceville and the other at South Park in Falkville. Genesis Construction of Hartselle bid $438,500 for each of the proposed 1,700-square-foot buildings, which would be $877,000 for both. Boyette Construction of Moulton bid $657,157 on each building, which would be $1.3 million for both.

The third bid rejected was for a 2,000-square-foot metal maintenance shop inside the fenced Morgan County Jail grounds. District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said he had “sticker shock” from the maintenance shop bid of $1.077 million from Limestone Building Co. of Hartselle. Bids on all three projects were opened last week.

“I was surprised by the bids. They seemed pretty high, even with the economic environment we’re in,” Vest said. “We’ll get with the (jail building) architect, and we’ll cut out something that doesn’t violate the integrity of the structure. It will be behind the fence behind the jail. It won’t be viewed by the public, but we still want it to be a nice building. It’s a pretty simple building we’re looking at.”

Vest said the commission plans to be more aggressive in advertising its request for bids and may even make a few phone calls to generate interest. “Competition could bring the price down,” he said.

A county contractor is constructing a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium at West Park in Neel for $1.9 million. Vest said the gym comes with four large restrooms, a concession stand, wooden floor and four air conditioning units. The initial price tag for the West Park gym was $1.2 million but pandemic-related costs bumped up the price by about $700,000.

“I know that is not comparing apples to apples, but the prices we received came in way too high,” he said.

Commission Chairman Ray Long and Vest both agreed construction contractors are like other businesses facing supply chain issues, labor shortages and rising material prices.

“They get held to a firm price so they have to mark (the bids) up so they don’t get burned,” Vest said.

Long said the commission could possibly put out new bids at its first meeting in November.

“This is the first time in my 12 years I’ve been here that we’ve had multiple bids rejected,” Long said. “They are so far out of line — $1.07 million for a 2,000-square-foot metal building? We know it is out of line.”

Last year, the commission paid between $200,000 and $300,000 for a 3,000-square-foot building for the environmental services department in Hartselle.

Long said the money for the jail maintenance shop will come out of the general fund.

“We know everything is up right now,” Long said. “In this market, it is hard to get supplies. … I feel confident when we rebid them the bids will come in better than this. It doesn’t matter what money it is, we have an obligation to our residents to spend it as wisely as we can.”

He said the redesign and rebidding process on the three structures could push the jobs back a couple of months.

“We’re building additional fields at the parks,” Long said. “And for the jail maintenance shop, they have gone without one for several years. A couple of more months won’t hurt them. We want a contract that we can all live with. I don’t think these are the best we can do.”

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