By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
After nearly a decade of planning, discussions, several changes of members on the county commission and rejected bids, the Gateway to the Big South Fork Visitor’s Center project will move forward after the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) sent a letter to Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. informing him the project was approved.
The announcement was made during Monday evening’s county commission meeting.
The letter states, “Per Neil Hansen (of TDOT): After careful review by TDOT, it has been determined that the bid in question is indeed materially unbalanced. (Which referred to a blank spot left on the bid in the plumbing section.) As this is a locally managed project, however, the department recognizes the county’s ability and acceptance to manage the potential risk with TDOT’s reservations.
“If Cumberland County agrees to move forward with the award of the construction contract to Freitag Construction Company, TDOT will concur with the understanding that the county assumes all risk in this endeavor and that no further federal aid will be available to augment any potential change orders to the existing Big South Fork Visitor Center project.”
Cumberland County Attorney Randal Boston told commissioners that, in essence, the letter is stating TDOT will not supply any more federal funding other than the total of $604,800.
“No matter if there are change orders, revisions or anything else. The county will assume the risk of coming up with any additional funding,” Boston said.
“Just to be clear, if we go forward, the county is accepting the liability with this project with TDOT’s reservation that the county assumes all risk of this endeavor?” Sonya Rimmer 8th District commissioner said.
Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner said, “There is no contingency funding if the architect screws up ... and it ends up costing more — it’s all on the county.”
“Yes,” Boston confirmed.
Last month, the financial management committee decided to accept the next lowest bid and reject the previous bid after W&O Construction said they could no longer honor their bid due to delayed response by TDOT.
The financial management committee awarded the job to Freitag Construction Company of Crossville for $605,800, which was $1,800 more than the W&O Construction bid.
Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock reported the architectural firm on the project, Lyman, Davidson Dooley, Inc. of Nashville, also submitted a letter stating the firm would be willing to reduce its charge of costs by $1,800 for CEI services to $15,700 in order to keep the project within the budget range.
CEI services include testing agency fees, submittal reviews and progress inspections and a final inspection/punch list review site visit.
Freitag has been notified they were the next bidder and awarded the job.
The letter to Carey further states, “Please bear in mind that this is truly a unique circumstance for a non-traditional, vertical construction project funded under the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and that this concurrence in no way is to be used to set precedence for any future transportation projects managed at the local level. With this understanding, you are hereby approved to inform Freitag Construction Company that they are the lowest responsive bidder and set up the mandatory pre-construction meeting.”
According to Brock, the county may now officially give the architect notice, set up a pre-construction meeting (which is typical with all construction projects) and proceed forward as with any other regular county construction project.
“At this mandatory pre-construction meeting, TDOT representatives from Materials & Tests and Construction must be present,” the letter states.
The letter was sent to Cumberland County Mayor Carey from Stephanie Ward, transportation planner with TDOT.