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Bidders on jail project question selection process

DESOTO COUNTY — Two losing bidders on a contract to build a new jail in DeSoto County contend the bidding process was unfair.

The board of supervisors Monday received the final draft of the contract with Oklahoma-based Flintco. The company submitted a $13.8-million construction bid. Supervisors said they will consider it at the supervisors’ next meeting July 5. Flintco’s bid was cited as the “lowest and best” of seven bids opened in May.

The Commercial Appeal reports that the decision has generated complaints from at least two unsuccessful Mississippi bidders: Murphy & Sons of Southaven, which bid $13.6 million; and Panola Construction, at $13.7 million.

Murphy has complained about specification requiring bidders to have built at least two jails costing $8 million or more within the past five years.

County officials said the qualifications “were on the first page” of the specifications and that Murphy failed to raise questions before the cutoff period.

Also, officials contend, to alter the specifications or extend the question period would be unfair and invite legal action from contractors who didn’t bid or raise issues based on the guidelines and deadlines.

“This facility has to hold up for 30-40 years and we do not think it is right to gamble with taxpayer money,” said county administrator Michael Garriga said. “We have a facilities and maintenance budget in excess of $1 million per year, and it’s growing. If the jail is built correctly on the front end, then it saves the taxpayers on the back end. The new jail … is going to be a highly technical facility with specialized security systems.”

The new jail will be built on 51.3 acres just south of Hernando.

Supervisor Bill Russell said the panel “would like nothing better than to keep the contract in Mississippi, but we’re an ethical board and we’re not going to break the law for anybody.”

Garriga said the gap between Murphy’s bid and Flintco’s is about “2 percent of the total contract.” He said that “based on state law and attorney general’s opinions, the county is well within its legal right to ask for reasonable experience” on a construction bid.

Source: The Commercial Appeal

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