By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Construction could begin this month on the new Oxford High School after school board members on Monday approved a $29,373,000 bid for its construction by W.G. Yates Construction Co.
Monday’s decision came after all bids received in March were higher than architects’ estimates for the job and were rejected. The plans for the new school were modified, combining some areas and calling for less-expensive materials. The final cost could be slightly higher or lower depending on the actual costs of materials.
“The board had established a budget of $34 million,” said Taylor Guild, a principal with Jackson architect firm Ely Guild Hardy.
Two competitors voiced objections to Yates’ eligibility, as representatives of the Philadelphia, Miss.-based company had failed to complete a checklist in the bid package whose items included whether the contractor is a Mississippi resident, affirmation of non-collusion, inclusion of allowances and affirmation of federal requirements.
“We hope y’all would take notice of our legitimate protest,” said Bill Burnett, owner of Panola Construction.
“If the form’s going to be totally disregarded, why put it in the bid packages at all?” asked Steve Rowell, owner of Flagstar Construction, calling Yates’ omission “a little bit of a competitive advantage.”
Both board attorneys assured members Yates’ error was not a liability.
“The board has the authority to waive minor irregularities … as long as it doesn’t affect the price (or) put other bidders at a competitive disadvantage,” Paul Watkins said, affirming that the Yates bid met those tests.
“The law as I understand says you’re looking after the taxpayers,” Mary Ann Connell said. “I think proper bid procedures substantively were followed.”
After meeting in executive session to consider the possibility of litigation, presumably over the bid issue, board members voted 5-0 to award Yates the contract.
Completion of the project is targeted for November 2013, with opening of the new school planned for January 2014.