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franklin county times

Contractors see two sides in water tank dispute

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 26, 2001
Only days before a judge hears arguments about a disputed bid for the construction of a million-gallon water tank in North Meridian, some contractors say the issue is not cut and dry.
At the heart of the dispute is whether or not the bid from the winning company Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Ken. is legal because it did not adhere to the city engineer's written specifications.
Caldwell proposed using 4-foot sections (called "forms") for the construction of the tank's concrete base. The bid specifications asked for the concrete to be cast in 6- to 12-foot sections.
Landmark Structures, which lost the bid, filed an appeal earlier this month, asking Circuit Judge Larry Roberts to name their company the only true, responsive bidder.
Contractors weigh in
One local contractor claims the city's process in awarding the bid was "unfair" while another says such deviations are not uncommon in the construction field.
On the other hand, the owner of a well-known local construction company, who wished to remain anonymous, said finding better and more cost-efficient ways to handle a job should be rewarded not punished.
4-foot vs. 6-foot
Terry said not re-advertising for the bids could cost the city money.
An engineering expert involved in the matter said 4-foot forms are typically reserved for agricultural uses, such as grain silos, and usually look "ugly" compared to a tank that uses 6- to 12-foot forms. Presumably, that is why the city's specifications never listed the possible use of 4-foot forms to begin with.
The expert said city officials wanted the tank to be attractive and that Caldwell had developed its own "high quality" 4-foot forms that still produce a cosmetically appealing tower.
The anonymous construction owner said Landmark's suit isn't about fairness it's about sour grapes.
Representatives of Landmark and Caldwell could not be reached for comment.
From the lawyers' point of view
Attorneys for the city contend the Meridian City Council has a right to choose Caldwell over Landmark because the city's Notice to Bidders gives the city the ability to "waive technicalities, informalities or irregularities."
Landmark's attorney has previously stated that Mississippi law does not allow "exceptions or alternatives" in the bid process. They say Landmark played by the rules and Caldwell did not.
Terry said no matter how the dispute ends up in court, the controversy does not help the city's image.
Judge Roberts will hear arguments from both sides Thursday.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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