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Lowndes bid policy irks Dougherty officials

ALBANY, Ga. -- Some on the Dougherty County Commission have balked at a Lowndes County contractor's bid to build a new EMS headquarters, saying the county shouldn't award bids to Lowndes companies until it opens its doors to Albany contractors.

Commissioner Gloria Gaines pointed out during the Dougherty County Commission work session Monday that Lowndes County has a preference policy in its bidding program that excludes Dougherty County contractors from bidding on projects under certain circumstances.

"We have to remember that Lowndes County does not allow our folks to bid in Lowndes County. They have a sheltered market for construction projects," Gaines said. "Lowndes County needs to know this will be the last bid they will get in this county until they open up their process to our businesses."

The discussion was in reference to S.C. Barker Construction, a business based in Lowndes County that submitted the lowest bid to meet specifications for construction of the new Dougherty County EMS headquarters. The EMS building was originally budgeted as a $2 million sales tax project under Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax 5.

The negotiated bid, $1.4 million, was roughly $227,685 below the bid of the only local bidder, Kinney Construction Co. Barker's base bid was also $117,000 below Kinney's base bid, county documents show.

Gaines wasn't the only commissioner raising concerns.

Commissioner John Hayes said that he takes issue with the fact that county staff have done little more than encourage winning bidders on projects to use local subcontractors for work on county projects.

"I have had one heck of a time when we spend for these projects we completely ignore the local taxpayers and businesses," Hayes said. "It should be on all of us to a little better than encourage use of local subs."

Commissioner Muarlean Edwards said she sympathized with the concerns brought before the board, but said the commissioners needed "to follow our bid process on these types of things."

Chairman Jeff Sinyard said to keep costs of projects low and promote competition, the county must be careful in discouraging participants on projects.

"We must protect our bid process so that we can get the best numbers possible and get more people to do business in Dougherty County," Sinyard said.

The commission will take a vote on the project at its business meeting later this month.