ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County received only one bid — in the amount of $26,500 — to repair the rotting windowpanes in the steeple of the historic Hawkins County Courthouse, which some members of the county commission’s Public Buildings Committee deemed to be too high.
Eventually, the panel agreed to ask the full commission to make the final decision, but not before one commissioner attempted to solicit a second bid over the phone.
After the bid was opened and the amount announced publicly, Commissioner Charlie Thacker called his HVAC contractor while the meeting was still in session to find out if the contractor’s son would be interested in offering a bid on the project.
Other PBC members, as well as county Facilities Manager Sarah Davis, informed Thacker that it was improper to solicit another bid after the bid submission period had expired and the legal bid was opened and announced.
Following a lengthy discussion, Thacker’s attempt to solicit a second bid was rejected by other committee members, who instead voted 4-1 to ask the full commission to vote on the $26,500 bid. Thacker cast the only no vote.
Last year, a pane of glass fell out of one of the four window units in the steeple of Hawkins County’s 184-year-old courthouse, but miraculously it didn’t break or hit anyone.
Instead, it stuck in the ground, but the event revealed to county leaders that the windowframes and sashes in the steeple are rotting and in need of replacement.
Rogersville-based independent contractor Luke Smith, who specializes in wood detailing, examined the steeple windows and gave the PBC a report on the damage during its September meeting.
Smith was then hired by the PBC to draft specs for the project, which were part of the bid advertisement. Smith has subsequently offered the only bid for the project in the amount of $26,500.
The project entails rebuilding the windows on all four sides of the steeple, each of which has 13 panes of glass.
Davis explained to the PBC that only one side would be removed and repaired at a time, so that during the duration of the project only one side of the steeple would be boarded up.
As Thacker was asking his friend on the phone to submit a second bid, Commissioner Valarie Goins noted, “There’s people who know how much he (Smith) bid. That’s not fair.”
Committee Chairman Rick Brewer added, “The only thing we can do is reject this bid, and re-bid it. Give this guy (on the phone with Thacker) an opportunity to re-bid it.”
Brewer was among those who felt Smith’s bid was too high.
Davis said that window needs to be repaired ASAP in case another pane falls out and possibly hits someone next time.
“This is something that not just anybody can do,” Davis said. “If we put it back out for bid, he may not give us a bid. We don’t have to (accept) the bid today, but the amount he bid is going to be (public information). Anybody who comes to look at it will undercut him. If they want the job, why wouldn’t they?”
She asked the committee to accept the bid, and Goins made that motion.
“I don’t think we should conduct business this way,” Goins said. “I don’t think we should call people up during the meeting and ask them about things. If these people are serious about something, then they should have already put their bid in.”
Thacker: “I would like to ask this committee to allow one week. And I know it’s been advertised.”
Brewer: “If we do, we’ll have to not accept this bid and re-do the bids. We can’t just give this guy an opportunity to come in here and under-bid this guy.”
Commissioner Keith Gibson then made an amendment to the motion, which calls for Smith’s bid to be forwarded to the full commission for approval.
“I think we’re diluting the bid process when we advertise for bids, and we get the bids, and then asking people to come back and bid because only one person put a bid in,” Gibson said. “I think we’ll have problems with getting people to bid for the county.”
The amended motion was approved 4-1, and Brewer said he may submit it as an out of order resolution at the Jan. 25 commission meeting.