Bids rejected, Chickasaw County storm clean up continues in interim

By Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors voted to reject all 12 contractors bids for debris removal due to the April 27 tornado, but agreed to continue clean up work at the local level while deciding their next course of action.

The board has been weighing options on the best and most cost effective method for clearing debris from the tornadoes. Initially, it was hoped the Corps of Engineers would be involved in the project and defer the cost from the county to the Corps and to FEMA. Applications have been made but the county has received no notification from the Corps of their intent.

Supervisors requested bids from outside companies to clear the debris and also have discussed using county employees, supported by temporary part-time employees and assistance in manpower and equipment from neighboring counties to handle the approximately 125 cubic yards of debris.

FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cleanup costs with the county and state (MEMA) splitting 25 percent.

All bids were rejected because several contractors said they did not receive addendums to the specifications that had originally been sent out.

“We had changes in the specs and at least three addendums were mailed out,” aid Board President Jerry Hall. “Some of the people did not receive the addendums.”

Board Attorney Elizabeth Ausbern said an enquiry to the State Auditor’s department led to the decision to reject all bids.

“Six to eight of the contractors called to say they did not receive the addendums,” Ausbern said. “To have a level playing field, according to the audit department, this was the way to go.”

The bids were rejected unsealed to protect the privacy of the contractors.

“If we had opened them and recorded them, it would have exposed their bid and everyone would know what the others had bid,” Hall explained.

The board is scheduled to meet July 19 to decide whether or not to rebid the project.

While the board considers options, some clearing work has begun by county employees with assistance from neighboring areas.

“This is mostly superficial,” said Supervisor Tommy Criddle in the July 5 meeting. “We’re just trying to get started and make some headway. People are tired of looking at it and, frankly, I am too.”

Road manager Kenneth Funderburk estimated the length of completion on the project once it is formally begun.

“Once we really get started, we’re looking at three months minimum and that’s probably optimistic,” Funderburk said.

Project manager Wes Lowe reported on the areas the county has already begun to clean and said, although the task seems daunting, visible progress is being made on clearing debris.

“You can eat an elephant one bite at a time and that’s basically what we’re doing,” Lowe said.

Hall confirmed the county will continue clean and clearing efforts while the board decides the next course of action.

“Especially in light of what we did here today (rejecting the bids),” Hall said. “We need more options.”