The company hired to demolish and remove asbestos from A. Dorothy Hains Elementary School was never approved by the Richmond County Board of Education before it began work in May, district officials said Tuesday.
The board put the project out to bid in February 2010, but the district postponed it for one year because of a setback in the schedule to relocate students.
At that point, the maintenance staff had selected the lowest bidder, Thompson Building Wrecking Co., at $118,000, and asked the Augusta company to honor its price for one year. When the project was restarted in May, Thompson got to work.
District staff recently discovered the bid was never presented to the board for approval.
Jeff Baker, a builder for Hanscomb/GMK, a firm helping the district oversee its projects, said the maintenance department did not realize the bid was never approved.
"It was an oversight," he said.
On Tuesday, board members approved a ratification of the bid for Thompson Building to be awarded the project, although the company has already completed $43,000 in unauthorized work since May. Board member Marion Barnes was the one opposing vote, saying the oversight was unacceptable.
"That don't sit too well with me," Barnes said. "The fact remains, this board never voted on the first time on the bid, yet we go and tell somebody to do something and we pay them. If it had been a classroom teacher, they would have fired him."
School board attorney Pete Fletcher said because the board approved the bid Tuesday, there will be no legal or monetary consequences from the oversight.
If the board had rejected the bid after the company had completed some work, the maintenance department would have been responsible.
"An administrator messed up. That's it," Fletcher said.
The mistake has brought attention to the school system's procedures in awarding bids and authorizing work. Although it was a mistake, Barnes said some people could think, "If it smells bad, it's got to be bad."
"I'd like to know how we bid something for ($118,000) over a year ago, and it just got stuck laying around on somebody's desk." he said.