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Hogansville debates contractors

HOGANSVILLE – Following a canceled work session and council meeting on Aug. 20, the Hogansville City Council met Monday night for a special called meeting.  

The majority of the meeting was spent discussing a staff recommendation that Falcon Design Group be named the engineering firm to work with the city on the upcoming Community Block Development Grant application, which will be prepared for west side water improvements. The city is seeking the maximum grant it can receive via the CDBG program, which is $750,000. 

City Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-tem Theresa Strickland raised questions and concerns related to this staff recommendation. Specifically, Strickland noted the city’s long-standing relationship with G.Ben Turnipseed Engineers, Inc. (Turnipseed Engineers), another firm which placed a bid for the CBDG application work, as well as a concern related to the language embedded in Falcon’s fee structure proposal. 

“I’m just questioning why we’re not going with Turnipseed, a company that we have been with for so long,” Strickland said. “I’m just looking for reasons why we should not go with Turnipseed and go with Falcon. I don’t know why we wouldn’t go with Turnipseed on this project.”

Turnipseed Engineers is also the engineering firm working on Hogansville’s new wastewater treatment plant, an $8 million project.

“From a city management standpoint, you (currently) have all of your eggs in one basket,” City Manager David Milliron said in response to Strickland. “Also, when you look at bottom line cost, less cost expense is going to get you more impact for your water placement. At the end of the day, it comes down to dollars and cents.”

Strickland and Mayor Bill Stankeiwicz inquired as to the specific proposals from the engineering firms that placed bids in an effort to ensure the bid the council chose to accept was in the best interest of the city. 

“The maximum amount that can be charged under CDBG for engineering and construction services in the preliminary stage is 12 percent (of total project cost),” Milliron said. “Falcon has committed to 10 percent, Turnipseed is 12 percent.”

If the city received the full $750,000 from CDBG to assist with west side water improvements, it would correlate to a $90,000 engineering and construction fee for Turnipseed compared to a $75,000 fee for Falcon. Strickland countered this claim by Milliron, shifting focus back to the language of the original bid given by Falcon.

“Look at the (Falcon) paperwork. It says, ‘percent of construction, 8 percent to 11 percent,’ and I’m looking at Turnipseed that says ‘not to exceed 8.5 percent.’ So, I’m missing something, I guess,” Strickland said. 

The 8.5 percent Strickland referred to was Turnipseed’s proposed construction cost. The company also estimated a 3.5 percent inspection services fee, which raised the overall bid to 12 percent of the total project cost. 

“You’re not missing anything, we had the same question,” Milliron said. “We followed up and asked Falcon specifically, ‘what is your max engineering construction services cost?’ They replied back that it was 10 percent maximum cost. That’s the amount.”

“That’s a concern for me,” Strickland said. “This has the numbers in here. We’re talking about you had to call them back, that taints the integrity of the process. I have a problem.”

“I’ll take objection to the note of ‘taints the process,’” Milliron responded. “In every bid document, we authorize ourselves to negotiate for clarifications. This is a process that happens routinely, where something isn’t spelled out or there is a simple omission. I want to make sure your verbiage is not suggesting that staff has done anything unethical, immoral, improper or illegal.”

“We can’t go on, ‘well they said this,’ we’re going by what is in the document,” Strickland said. “I requested that Falcon paperwork today, but even if I had that paperwork five minutes ago, or had it in writing, I still have concerns. Nothing is going to change that.” 

Reginald Jackson motioned to table the discussion until Milliron could relay documentation from Falcon, ensuring they had agreed to a fee of 10 percent of the total construction cost. The motion did not receive a second, however, and failed. 

Strickland then motioned to move forward with Turnipseed as the engineering firm on the project, which was seconded by Marichal Price, but failed as well, as Jackson, George Bailey and Fred Higgins voted against. 

Milliron said the staff would come back to the council on Tuesday with further documentation related to the bids. 

In other news, the city council: 

4Discussed mayor and council travel, training and reimbursement, which also turned contentious. Strickland made a motion that council members and the mayor reimburse the city if any individual spends more than the budgeted $3,500 allowed to each for those purposes. 

Stankiewicz took exception to the motion, due to the fact that previous budgets had not followed General Accepted Accounting (GAP) principles, and had misallocated certain training and travel into the incorrect fiscal year, leading to a finalized 2017-18 budget that included two years’ worth of Stankiewicz’s training expense as opposed to one. 

“There has to be proper accounting,” Stankiewicz said. “I’ll reimburse the money, but I’m not going to pay for two conferences (allocated) in one year out of my own pocket. I guess I could pay for that out of my exorbitant salary of $350 a month, but I’m only going to pay for conferences within the right year. If the accounting is right, I’ll pay it.”

Strickland and Price voted to approve the motion, while Bailey and Higgins voted against. Jackson abstained, leaving the deciding vote to the mayor, who voted down the motion. 

4Passed a nuisance abatement ordinance and a sewer use ordinance.