Demolition job isn't making city money

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Demolition continues at the former site of an old candy factory at Ninth and Telfair streets. The city took a higher bid for the work, with officials saying landfill fees would make up the difference.

One of Augusta city leaders' justifications for spending a quarter of a million dollars more than necessary for a local demolition job has apparently fallen flat.

 

Contrary to sworn affidavits and public statements, Augusta hasn't gained $220,000 in landfill fees from J&B Construction in connection with the demolition of the old candy factory on Telfair Street.

Mark Johnson, the director of the city's landfill, said last week that J&B Construction hasn't brought any debris to the landfill.

Where debris is hauled isn't usually a controversial issue. It's a heated topic in the candy factory demolition because city leaders justified awarding a contract to a higher bidder by claiming the city would recoup the differences through the landfill tipping fees.

The low bidder for the project, Thompson Building Wrecking Company, was initially rejected because it didn't include proper document of bonding.

Thompson, which is bonded, sued and won the right to be reconsidered by the city. City commissioners rejected Thompson in favor of J&B, a Columbia County minority-owned business. Thompson's bid was about $260,000 less.

J&B owner Jerome Jones; city procurement director Geri Sams; and Robert T. Munger, the project manager for the city's $643.3 million sales tax projects, each submitted affidavits in Richmond County Superior Court, saying the city would lose $220,000 in landfill tipping fees if Thompson was awarded the demolition contract.

At least one commissioner noted the tipping fees as a reason to back J&B over Thompson when the bid came up for a vote last summer.

"Thompson has verifiable information that J&B took inert waste material to numerous sites other than the county landfill," said Robert A. Mullins, Thompson's attorney.

Using the Augusta landfill wasn't a requirement for the demolition job, which will make way for a new downtown library. But Mr. Munger said last week that he had assumed J&B would use the city's landfill.

Mr. Munger said he never knew what Thompson's bid was because it was rejected for noncompliance with the request for proposals.

Mr. Jones didn't return several telephone messages left at his office seeking comment.

The demolition was supposed to take 90 days, according to J&B's bid, but has stretched into six months.

Mr. Munger said there were some work intensive surprises that were discovered as the demolition progressed, such as concealed asbestos underneath floors.

J&B already has submitted four change orders, each totalling less than $20,000, said City Administrator Fred Russell. The city commission is scheduled to vote on a fifth, a $28,000 change order for J&B.

The $24 million library project also has been delayed because of extended property negotiations, Mr. Munger said.

Staff Writer Sylvia Cooper contributed to this article.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.