A bid opening became controversial at the April meeting of the Jenkins City Council Monday evening, prompting one contractor to withdraw his bid twice and a council member suggested that the council go back to opening bids during the meetings as it has done in the past.
After Architect Bill Richardson of Richardson and Associates of Whitesburg showed the council drawings of the new city pool with the bathhouse that was the subject of the bid, Mayor G.C. Kincer asked City Manager Todd DePriest to present the bids to the council.
DePriest read the bids, which had already been opened. The two lower bids came from Blair Construction of Whitesburg at $79,729 and Walker Construction of Whitesburg for $60,957.58. The high bid came from Quality Construction of Jenkins at $112,875. After DePriest read the bids, Mayor G.C. Kincer told the council “we chose Blair Construction” because of its proficiency in following the specifics of the bid. Kincer said Blair’s bid had followed the specifications in the bid advertisement “right to the letter.”
Allan Ross, who was there to represent Walker Construction, told the council he had tried to keep costs down and said he had done a number of other jobs and could provide references, but Kincer said that Ross had recalled his bid before the opening. Ross replied that he had heard that he wasn’t going to get the bid anyway. Kincer said that the submission of proof of insurance and the correct paperwork had been very important in the decision to recommend awarding the bid to Blair Construction. Ross said he had never done a bid that was so specific and most of his work had been done on a handshake and Randy Blair said it was very difficult to get the specifics right on some bids.
Councilman Rick Damron questioned the cost of the bathhouse portion of the project and said it had gone over budget. Bill Richardson said the work had been proposed to cost $100 per square foot on new construction and $80 per square foot to renovate the Fields house, which will contain the community center. Richardson said the actual cost of the bathhouse would be $95 per square foot and added that the original proposal sent in to state inspectors had been rejected because it did not contain showers. He said the state had said there could be no pool without showers and a changing room and that had driven the cost up considerably. At that point Ross said he would withdraw his bid.
Richardson explained that freestanding construction such as the bathhouse would cost more than an add-on or renovation project and said is also harder to control costs on new construction. He said the work that was bid would still leave $80,000 to renovate the Fields house. Council Member Rebecca Terrill-Amburgey said the work could be prioritized according to need and the availability of funding on the community center once the bathhouse was built. Kincer added that the plan had always been for city workers to do as much of the renovation work as possible.
At that point, Allan Ross told Kincer “I’ve been working with you on the electric. Did you forget that?”
Kincer replied that he was not as close to the actual work on the project as Ross seemed to think, but “If you want to blame me, go ahead.”
Chuck Anderson moved that the council accept Blair Construction’s bid and Terrill-Amburgey voted yes. Rick Damron and Carol Anne Litts both abstained. Terrill- Amburgey then brought up the manner of opening the bid.
“I think we need to go back to the old way,” said Terrill-Amburgey. She said the old way had been for the council to get the bids at the meeting, to open one at that time, and go over them. “We’re having a lot of controversy on our bids.”
Damron said the cost of the bathhouse was the issue with which he had a problem, and Terrill-Amburgey said the state would not allow the pool to open without bathhouses. She added that time was getting short and if the council wanted to make the projected opening day of May 27, it needed to get started with the bathhouse immediately. Richardson repeated that the state had mandated the changes in the bathhouse and added that the bathhouse plans include a 400-amp electrical panel that will handle the entire complex, pool, community center and bathhouse.
Blair responded to a question about the certification of his electrical subcontractors and Allan Ross asked if he got to explain his “subs” too. City Attorney Randall Tackett answered, “You’ve withdrawn your bid twice.” Councilman Damron asked that the council go into executive session to discuss the matter but after the move was challenged, City Attorney Tackett said the council had no legal reason to go into executive session. Ross said he had continued to raise objections because he did not want to be slandered and that he felt like he had been slapped in the face, before leaving the meeting.
“The bottom line is we have to have the bathhouse for the pool,” said Terrill-Amburgey. “We don’t have an option.”
Kincer said that the pool and bathhouse would be ready for opening day if Blair Construction could get started “tomorrow”, and Chuck Anderson reminded the council that when the council passed the city’s payroll tax it had promised the citizens a swimming pool.
“We want to deliver to the citizens,” said Anderson. Damron said he would change his vote to yes and Kincer called for a new vote to award the bid to Blair Construction. The vote was unanimous in favor of awarding the bid to Blair.
In the Administrator’s Report, City Manager DePriest said the drains for the pool have been installed and the contractor will put the walls in next week and start pouring concrete. He said the work is on target for the projected opening day.
In other business, Mayor Kincer reported that he had accompanied council members and members of the citizens advisory group to the Center for Rural Development where they were presented with a $9,000 grant check to develop a lake walk along Elkhorn Lake. Kincer said it was very gratifying to hear Fifth District U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers speak so highly of the Jenkins effort. He said Rogers told the other groups gathered at the center that Jenkins had put together a model effort and said he was very impressed with citizens working with the city government to accomplish their goals.
“We’re moving ahead,” said Kincer. “We’re going to accomplish all these projects.”
Kincer said Virginia Tech University has expressed an interest in working with the city to develop a trail system to connect with the Pine Mountain Trail Linear State Park. He said there will be other opportunities to obtain funding from the Center for Rural Development and that the effort has largely been possible because of the cooperation between citizens and the council.
“It was a good day for the City of Jenkins,” said Kincer.
During the Utility Report, Utility Commission Chairman Ked Sanders told the council commercial sales, water sales to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, were down considerably and he said the general consensus was that it was an accounting error. Sanders also said water leaks in the city were up considerably.
Jody Hunt, of Summit Engineering, project manager of the Jenkins Natural Gas Line Project, told the council that Summit is in the process of gauging public interest in using natural gas as a heating source, with which to cook, or both. Hunt said City Manager Todd De Priest will put fliers in utility bills to poll the public as well.
Mayor Kincer said the city has been in discussions with a group that specializes in managing gas utilities for municipalities that adopt natural gas as an energy source. Kincer said this will allow city workers to be trained in the management process while it satisfies state regulations as well. Hunt said he also wanted to provide information to anyone with questions about the safety of natural gas.
Hunt said natural gas now provides 51 percent of the nation’s energy needs and has very high safety standards.
Hunt said a number of surrounding cities use gas as their primary source for heating and cooking, including Pikeville, Hazard, Prestonsburg, Somerset and Lexington.
Police Chief Roland Craft said that Jenkins officers have responded to 10 to 20 calls and made several arrests including solving two stolen vehicle cases and recovering $5,000 of $10,000 that was recently stolen. He added that in conjunction with UNITE, the department has installed a pill disposal box at the entrance to City Hall where outdated or unneeded medication can be safely disposed of. Craft said it is not a good idea to flush medication down the toilet because of pollution issues and it is better to dispose of it safely than to keep it around the house.
Chief Craft also said that an officer on patrol had broken up an attempted burglary at the Raven Rock Golf Course. He said the burglars were in the early stages of breaking in and fled when the patrol car appeared.