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May the low bidder win! Or not…

WINTON – In an unusual move, the Hertford County Commissioners voted here Monday night to accept the highest rather than the lowest bid among those submitted to make repairs on county’s satellite health clinic located on NC 42 in Ahoskie.

Traditionally, when a government owns a property in need of repair, the lowest bid submitted is the one that is accepted. However, not in this instance. Commissioner William Mitchell noted company “irresponsibility” as his reason for not accepting the lowest bid, submitted by A.R. Chesson at $79,000.

The Ahoskie Health Clinic sustained flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, rendering the business inoperable and the building inhabitable until repairs are made. County Manager Loria Williams came before the commissioners during their regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, to ask the board to move on accepting a bid so that the clinic can be renovated and then resume normal operations.

Previously, making a move on the building’s needed repairs had been held up pending monies from FEMA that were thought to have been coming.

Williams noted, “It appears we fell through the cracks and are not eligible for FEMA funds in this case, and our insurance deductible is $500,000… as the total cost for repairs will be around $100-120,000 tops, that is still well below our deductible so this will be a cost to the county.”

Mitchell inquired, “Why did we fall through the cracks (on this project)?”

Williams explained, “To be eligible for FEMA funds, insurance is applied first, and as we didn’t have any flood insurance – lesson learned – that’s why our deductible is so high and because we haven’t met the deductible, no FEMA.”

Commission chairman Ronald Gatling, looking at the bids received for the job, stated, “This is high; it’s all high, both bids.”

After several minutes of waiting for the commissioners to make a motion or speak, Williams further added, “One of the issues here is we are in a time constraint. The longer we are down, the longer people go without clinical services. As for the price, contractors aren’t a dime a dozen anymore with all the rebuilding efforts going on in the area following Matthew.”

Commissioner Garry Lewter asked Williams what would happen if the commissioners did not want to accept the lowest bid. Assistant County Attorney Maria Jones stated, “You don’t have to accept the lowest bid; it’s the lowest responsible bid, but I’d advise that you would pay more in litigator’s fees than it is worth to accept any other bid.”

Williams further noted, “If you choose a higher bid, you must give a reason as to why, in case we are asked later.”

Commissioner Curtis Freeman asked, “So the Health Authority is not paying for anything? We are responsible for all of it?”

To which Williams replied, “The Health Authority took care of their contents, but we, as the (property) landlord, are responsible for the building.”

After further discussion on the matter, including Williams offering to place the job back up to be open for bids from other general contractors, Mitchell made a motion to go with American Builders for the repairs.

“I’m only doing this due to our prior history with the other builder (A.R. Chesson) as not being responsible,” he noted. Lewter seconded the motion and he along with Mitchell and Freeman voted aye with an opposing nay from Gatling. Commissioner Johnnie Farmer was not present for the meeting.

American Builders’ bid for the job was an estimated $89,000 and did not include the cable lay-out that is also needed to complete repairs on the building.