Did the Town of Keyser properly manage the tendering process?
KEYSER – The cost of $ 17,600 for Keyser to have the pile of earth leveled on county-owned property along Highway 46 was legally below the state’s threshold to require publication of the bids.
The decision to go with the lowest contractor who submitted a bid, however, was never formally passed by Keyser City Council.
Since the council contracted with JR Lucas last month to level the dirt the town dumped on old tennis courts in 2013, some townspeople have questioned why the job was not advertised for offers.
Instead, city officials simply said at their August 11 meeting that they got two bids for the job but, at the time, did not vote or disclose the bid amount because ‘they didn’t know at the time how they were going to meet the county’s request to level the land.
Since that meeting, the dirt has leveled off and board member Jim Hannas revealed last week that the cost was $ 17,600.
âWe called and accepted offersâ¦ I called four local contractors, but two didn’t want to do it because their bulldozer was not big enough,â he said.
“Two contractors did it … and they both presented sealed offers.”
According to Hannas, these offers came from Mineral Fabrication for $ 19,000 and from JR Lucas for $ 17,600.
âThe offer was awarded to JR,â Hannas said.
However, the decision to accept this lowest offer was apparently made over the phone with city officials and not by an official public vote.
âThe city administrator called all of us and asked to move the land and go for the cheapest price,â Hannas said.
And although the cost of the project appears to be well above the publicity threshold for bids set by the city decree, Hannas said it was not clear what exactly that threshold was.
âI pulled out the old prescription bookâ¦ and it says $ 2,000 and then it was crossed out and says $ 5,000,â he said, adding that city administrator Jeff Broadwater , is currently working on updating this ordinance and others.
Hannas questioned the low threshold, saying if so, the city would have to accept offers on purchases such as chemicals, hoses and even fire hydrants.
âA fire hydrant costs $ 2,800,â he said.
Council member and finance commissioner Mike Ryan, however, pointed out that the West Virginia state auditor’s office said the state required anything over $ 25,000 to be advertised for the offer.
According to state code 5-22-4 (c), âThe state and its subdivisions mustâ¦ solicit competitive bids for every construction project in excess of $ 25,000. “
The code also defines âthe state and its subdivisionsâ to include all municipalities.
Hannas said Lucas’ offer was an exceptionally good price.
âThere was 30,000 cubic meters of earth up there and they moved it for 57 cents per cubic meter. It’s unreal. Anyone can search for it; it costs at least $ 1 or $ 1.50 or more.
Noting their need to level the dirt quickly so the county can proceed with plans to build a storage facility on the property, Hannas said, âIf I made a mistake, I’m sorry. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.
“But I don’t think I was wrong.”
Liz Beavers is a seasoned writer and editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune. You can check out his biography and more of his work at https://www.newstribune.info/staff/6477370002/liz-beavers/. To contact her with a story idea, email [email protected]