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Panel OKs recovery center

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Building & Grounds Committee recommended 3-0 Friday morning the estimated $60,000 construction of a proposed Isabella Disaster (Data) Recovery Center.

Herb Benford, director of the Management Information Services, said the new center would utilize old servers not being used for the interior renovation.

The committee also recommended taking the $49,500 bid by MetroServices for the job. The full seven-member Board of Education will vote on the bid and renovation at its Nov. 18 meeting.

Building & Grounds Committee member David Maschke, who chairs the School Board. was concerned about the perception of MetroServices having the lowest bid. His question resulted from Tony Reese, DCSS construction manager, stating that MetroServices answered a question from him while he was drawing the center's specifications.

"This is where the slight rub comes in because Metro was who you had answering questions," Maschke said.

"That's correct," Reese said.

"The one who helped with specs is now he low bidder," Maschke said. "It's just that it causes me to pause about these sorts of things because we got to very careful. If I'm not mistaken Metro was very, very low over there on the (Albany) Early College (job), almost half or something like that on that bid. I think they were $30,000 and the next closest was $58,000 or $60,000-something.

"Now, they do good work and they certainly are a reputable firm. I just want us to be careful to make sure that we're keeping our nose clean and keeping things at arm's length away and that we don't get into the discussion among contractors and out on the street that we don't end up in a conflict situation."

Maschke then went on to say that at his architect firm he calls suppliers and contractors to find out what are reasonable rates.

"I just want to make sure it doesn't dissolve into a conflict," he said. "I'm not saying that's happening here, but I know sometimes in the past we had vendors that have had written specs, not necessarily (DCSS) Building & Grounds, that then bid on stuff and that's not a good thing."

Assistant Director of Facilities and Capital Projects Bob Fowler assured Maschke that wasn't going to happen.

"We'll do everything we can to keep that from happening," Fowler said. "That's one reason why we put a lot of personal interest in the specs we do write."

Maschke then went back to the potential consultation conflict again with Reese.

"What I'm reading from you is that it wasn't a conflict or that you feel it wasn't a conflict of interest," Maschke said.

"No conflict of interest," Reese said.

As Reese responded to Maschke's question, Fowler took off his glasses.

"It was a question. It wasn't a conflict," Fowler said.

Reese further clarified his actions regarding his drawing of the center's specifications.

"When I spoke with the engineers and the local vendors it was during the development of specifications," he said.

"That's what I was thinking," Maschke said. "Now, I'm fine and understand. Now, I just want us to be on the same page and we all want things to be right."

Building & Grounds Committee Chairman James Bush echoed Maschke's thoughts.

"It has to be done according to policy," he said. "We're all good people and we just don't want our names tarnished for small stuff in which there was no intent to do anything (wrong)."

Following the meeting, Fowler, Reese and Benford explained to The Herald some of the confusion that happened during the Oct. 30 Building & Grounds Committee meeting. The confusion came as a result of Maschke wanting to know what the data recovery center project was about, its scope, what it was to be used for and its cost. He said he didn't know anything about the project until the construction plans were delivered to his office to be made available for review by small and minority firms at no charge to encourage bid participation.

Bush then admonished Fowler and others.

"I'd like to admonish you, with due respect, that any project go before the (School) Board, we don't want to go back to the way it was before," Bush said on Oct. 31. "We want when the new superintendent comes here, he or she, that the money in the school system comes before the board. We don't need Mr. (Robert) Lloyd, (the executive director of operations and business services), with due respect, or Mr. (Herb) Benford, (director of the Management Information Services), to make those decisions."

Fowler said the heated confrontation actually had no basis and that DCSS Building & Grounds Committee staff ultimately "shut down" as a result.

"There was such confusion in that room that day we shut down because we had not done anything out of the ordinary," he said. "The conversation spiraled out of control. You couldn't answer one question without answering the other."

Reese admitted, "I was afraid to answer. I've been to these things for 10 years and things can get inflamed."

"We did not break any policy," Fowler said. "The actual bid results were recommended in this meeting by Building & Grounds and that recommendation will go before the (school) board on the 18th.

"We're interested in transparency, too," he added. "We grew up here. The system means a lot to me and we are going to do what's right and there are misunderstandings."

Benford said the proposed new data recovery center will have six-eight servers and two network storage devices for backup.