County OKs $4.7M contract to expand business incubator

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – County officials awarded a $4.7 million contract Thursday to expand downtown’s business incubator, but it didn’t go to the contractor that had originally won the project.
Instead, the Lee County Board of Supervisors will ink a deal with Batesville-based Panola Construction. Its price to build the sprawling, three-story structure was listed at $4,786,847 – more than $27,000 less than the second-lowest bidder.
The project is Phase II of the Renasant Center for IDEAs, located at Main and Elizabeth streets. The new building, which will sit behind the existing building, will house the Community Development Foundation as well as fledgling businesses.
“Panola is proud to be coming to Tupelo and being a partner with the Community Development Foundation,” said Bill Burnett, owner. “We look forward to a successful project.”
Eight companies had competed for the project, including Corinth-based CIG Contractors, which had won the job in an earlier bidding process.
That award was rescinded in late February after Panola, whose earlier bid was rejected on a technicality, found a flaw in the bidding process.
Project coordinators had failed to take into account a public holiday when granting a two-day extension to the bidding deadline.
The extension began on a Friday and ended on the Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Because it was a public holiday, Panola argued, it shouldn’t have counted in the extension.
Rather than fight the contention, supervisors agreed to scrap the bid process and begin anew – even though competitors knew their competitors’ bids.
CIG Contractors’ price the first time was $4,855,500 and the most recent time was $4,814,310.
“It’s just a sad day in my opinion,” said Randall Godwin of CIG. “The money now will go to Panola County that should have gone to Lee County, because I live in Lee County and the material suppliers I use are in Lee County and I use almost all Lee County subcontractors.”
The original cost for the building was estimated at $5.4 million, with $2.7 million coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.
The county and CDF will pay the rest.
“The Lee County Board of Supervisors is pleased to have the Phase II project under way. We look forward to the local opportunities and ideas this new facility will house,” said Darrell Rankin, president of the Board of Supervisors.
Construction of the building should start in about three weeks and is expected to take 16 months. The structure, designed by The McCarty Company, will have 24,300 square feet and be environmentally friendly.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.