By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The Gateway to the Big South Fork Visitor's Center project will move forward after the financial management committee decided to accept the next lowest bid and reject the previous bid after the contractor said they could no longer honor their bid due to delayed response by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).
The committee awarded the job to Freitag Construction Company of Crossville for $605,800, which was $1,800 more than the original bid W&O Construction submitted.
"W&O submitted their letter they would not be able to honor their bid amount after the 60-day period due to the TDOT delay in reviewing the project. Freitag has also submitted a letter and said they would still honor their bid," said Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock.
Brock reported that 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 for CEI services to $15,700, which will 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.
The note was submitted by Trip Hereford of Lyman, Davidson Dooley, Inc.
"With all this in mind all the funding stays the same and we will still have to wait for TDOT review of the project, though," Brock said.
Aarona VanWinkle, director of schools, made a motion to accept the next lowest bid submitted by Freitag Construction and to reject, or un-award the previous low bid submitted by W&O. Her motion was supported by Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, and was approved in a 6-1 vote.
"This project has been going on for a long time," VanWinkle said.
"It's been around for about nine years," Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. said.
Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner, said, "It was supposed to be a 100 percent funded project with no cost to the county. Then we learned it was going to cost $120,000. The department of transportation is going to dictate how it's run and it's going to be a nightmare for Cumberland County. I am not going to support it."
Presley voted against the project.
During discussion of the project, Hyder said she had calls both for the project and against the project.
"The county commission passed it, though, like it or not. It's the job of this committee to review and grant and award bids. If not, it's like going against the county commission, in my opinion," Hyder said.
"That's the way I feel, too. I didn't support it and voted against it, but I feel I have to now that the full commission approved it," Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner said.
"Yeah, I'm the same way, too. I still have concerns. There's zero contingency funds built into the project and I'm uncomfortable with a program like that, but I agree with Nancy," said 9th District commissioner Carmin Lynch.
"I can understand the point Johnny's making, though, in dealing with the state. I have to deal with it on a daily basis," VanWinkle said.
Presley said he wouldn't support it because the taxpayers in his district didn't want it.
The Gateway to the Big South Fork Visitor's Center project has been rebid several times, most recently because all earlier bids had to be rejected in order to meet TDOT and federal guidelines for the grants.
The financial management committee had to then in turn reject bids that were awarded and the county commission voted to rebid the project again back in January of this year.
TDOT was currently reviewing the project bids when W&O said it would not be able to honor its bid after the 60-day period, so the bid was then awarded to Freitag Construction.