A second chance to bid may have cost the county close to $20,000, according to County Commissioner Daryl Andrews.
The County Commissioners opened bids for demolition of the grocery store behind the courthouse on Dec. 1, an early step in the construction of Clay County's new jail. According to Andrews, all bids were rejected because the company with the lowest bid, Jeff A. Bell Construction and Excavation, Inc., had some problems with their paperwork.
When the company resubmitted their bid with the proper paperwork, their price had raised from $68,375 to $87,460, a substantial increase but still the lowest bid submitted.
"He took the country for 20 grand when we gave him another chance," Andrews said, referring to Jeff Bell. "He knew what the other bids were; he was at that first meeting. I think that's kind of tacky, really."
County Auditor Joe Dierdorf told The Times that the bid had not been accepted yet, only taken under advisement, at the advice of the Commissioners' council, Eric Somheil.
While state law mandates that the lowest bid, in most cases, should be the one taken, price isn't the only thing the county is allowed to consider when choosing prospective clients. Commissioners are also allowed to check a bidder's integrity, character and reputation. This gives the Commissioners at least one avenue to take, should they want to try to take the next lowest bidder, whose bid was $102,670.
Jail demolition is scheduled to begin by the end of January, but this may be impossible because no bids have technically been selected, Dierdorf said. Approximately 10 days are needed by the state to ensure demolition is safe, and the January County Commissioners meeting has been indefinitely postponed due to Commissioner Buddy Knox's recent injuries.
"This is an injustice to the taxpayers," Andrews said. "Personally, we would like to know what has taken place in 30 days that made the price raise $20 thousand."
He knew what the other bids were," Andrews continued. "He was at the first opening. We're basically forced to give him the bid, but we will remember this. We will."
Jeff Bell did not return a call from The Times. We will continue to report on the demolition progress.