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Corps moving ahead with seawall construction

BAY ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going ahead with plans to build a new seawall in Bay St. Louis after a federal agency rejected a contractor’s protest over the handling of bids for the project.

Roger Caplinger, president of Bay St. Louis-based Innovative Builders Inc., protested the bid award last January. He said his company entered a low bid of $16.25 million with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the 6,500-foot-long seawall.

The Corps awarded the contract to Hemphill-Key LLC, a Florence-based company that bid about $17.1 million.

The Corps said the Government Accountability Office upheld its decision this past week.

Caplinger told the Sea Coast Echo that the GAO’s decision in favor of Hemphill was “just business as usual for the federal government.”

Caplinger said his company was well qualified for the seawall job, but the government took the position that his past construction projects were on too small a scale. The result, he said, was a loss of local employment.

The seawall was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leaving downtown Bay St. Louis more exposed to storms.

“I think this is long overdue,” Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said. “We’ve been basically waiting on pins and needles for that project to get off the ground.”

Construction time is estimated at 18 months.

In a separate item, the publishers of Coastal Living magazine have named Bay St. Louis as one of the featured “Dream Towns” in this month’s issue. In an article titled “Beach Town Comeback,” the editors credit the community for rallying to rebuild and regaining its artsy, quirky independence.

Bay St. Louis is one of 10 listed coastal towns featured. The other towns were in California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Delaware and New York.

Copies of the magazine are on the newsstand now, or readers can visit www.coastalliving.com.

About Megan Wright

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