By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
A representative from Gulf States Manufacturing says his company was unfairly treated during a bid process for construction of a field house at Starkville High School and will bring the matter to the Starkville School District Board of Trustees tonight.
Tonight’s meeting is the district’s regularly scheduled meeting this month and will be held at 6 p.m. at the Greensboro Center.
Danny Coggins, general manager of Gulf States, will speak to the board about its choice to accept a bid for the new field house at SHS from a contractor that will not use Gulf States materials for the metal portion of the building. Coggins said the materials will come from either Tennessee, Texas or Mexico, instead of a local company that has done so much to support the community and the school district in particular.
Dolton McAlpin, attorney for the SSD school board, said the field house project was advertised, and 10 general contractors submitted bids. The board accepted the “lowest and best bid,” he said, which came from Mike Rozier Construction Company, Inc. of Carrollton. The plans and specifications for the field house required the bid to include use of a prefabricated steel structure.
“Gulf States Manufacturers did not submit a bid on the field house project as a general contractor. Gulf States is a fabricator and supplier of metal buildings, and quotes from such suppliers are marketed to or secured by the various general contractors interested in bidding on a project,” McAlpin said in a release. “In the case of the field house, the school district is informed that Gulf States provided quotes for the metal building portion of the project to some of the unsuccessful bidders but did not provide a quote to Mike Rozier Construction Co., Inc. until after the bids were opened. Rozier obtained its quote for the metal building from another metal building fabricator, and that cost was included in Rozier’s bid.”
Coggins said the reason Gulf States did not submit a bid to Rozier is because the list of bidders the company received from the architect was incomplete. He also said he believes Gulf States should have been included in the project’s specifications.
“Within the specifications, there was no mention of Gulf States. That’s done quite often in specifications. As a matter of fact, this architect said it might not be proper to do that. But if you read the specifications, and I have, it’s done in other places for other companies,” Coggins said.
However, McAlpin said the specifications are almost the same as those used for the addition to Sudduth Elementary in 2009, a project which Gulf States was a part of.
“In fact, the specifications for the field house metal building are virtually identical to the specifications for the metal building component of the addition which was made to Sudduth School as part of the bond issue construction,” he said. “In the case of Sudduth, the general contractor on that project used a Gulf States building for the metal building portion of that project, and to the school district’s knowledge Gulf States made no complaint during that job that there was something wrong with the specifications.”
Coggins also said he believes the school board only looked into the “lowest bid” and did not consider what would be the “best bid,” as allowed by state law. If the board had, he said he believes a bid Gulf States would have been chosen by the SSD Board of Trustees.
McAlpin maintains the board did consider both lowest and best bid in their choice.
“The architect drew up specifications, and advertisement for bids were made as the law requires. The school board reviewed all the bids, determined that Rozier’s bid was the lowest and best bid and accepted it, as state law requires,” he said. “The school board violated no law, rule or regulation in the preparation of specifications, advertisement for bids or in the acceptance of the lowest and best bid.”
Although the project was not huge compared to some of the buildings Gulf States traditionally manufactures, Coggins said this issue doesn’t necessarily come down to money. While every job is important to his employees in this economy, he said this instance is a “slap in the face” from the community Gulf States has supported.
Starkville School District Interim Superintendent Beth Sewell said the district supports local businesses whenever it can and has worked with Gulf States in the past. She said board members were aware of everything the company has done for the Starkville community, so when Gulf States contacted the school board about not being included in the project, the board looked into it.
“When the Starkville School District was first contacted by Gulf States, a review of the bid process for the field house project found Gulf States did not submit a bid for the metal building portion to the contractor that was ultimately the lowest bidder,” she said. “Our attorney, Dolton McAlpin, immediately began researching the matter to determine if any changes, alterations or substitutions could be made once a contract was already signed, but according to state law the advertised plans and specs could not be changed to accommodate a substitution of a Gulf States building, and the price bid by the contractor had to remain the same or be lower.”
Coggins said he believes the metal building manufacturer being used by Mike Rozier Construction Company violated the specifications by not submitting complete building calculations and a letter of certification to the architect within seven days as specified. Therefore, he said, the school board could order the contractor to choose to a different company to work with.
However, the school board attorney said the district intends to honor its contract with the general contractor.
“The school district has signed a contract with Mike Rozier Construction Co., Inc. to build the field house, and the contractor is ready to commence construction,” McAlpin said. “On the advice of counsel, the school board declines to breach that construction contract with Rozier by halting the project and starting the bid process all over again to give Gulf States Manufacturers another opportunity to provide a quote to potential bidders.”
During his presentation at tonight’s meeting, Coggins will outline for the board what he believes were flaws in the bidding process and ask members to reach a resolution that will be best for the district and keep jobs in Starkville.
“How can you possibly say that buying a building from Mexico, ... Tennessee or Texas is the right thing to do? You cannot name a company that has been more supportive of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi and Starkville than Gulf States,” he said. “How can anybody say that exporting our jobs is a good thing? How can anybody do that? Attorney, or not; school board member, or not.”
The board will also address a number of other issues during this meeting, including the approval of a variety of projects throughout the district.
The board will hold a community stakeholder meeting on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. with the Mississippi School Boards Association concerning the search for a new superintendent. The meeting will give the public a chance to give input which will establish the criteria for the search. A separate meeting will be held earlier that day for faculty and staff to give their input.