Originally created 01/04/06

Bill would keep tardy crews out of road work

No more late road projects.

If state Rep. Ben Harbin has his way, legislation he's primed to introduce next week will achieve just that goal across Georgia.

The veteran legislator says he's putting the final touches on a bill barring tardy contractors from bidding on future state projects. He had promised in the summer to introduce the legislation.

The change - what he considers a common-sense approach to a long-standing problem in Georgia - will force firms to finish what they start before moving on to new jobs, he explained.

"The way things stand now, once you are qualified, you stay qualified and can bid on any future projects," Mr. Harbin said. "What the legislation will say is that when you fall far behind on a job you'll come off of the list of qualified bidders."

Once contractors catch up, they will be allowed back on the list and can try their hands at any state project.

"This is not a permanent punishment," he said. "It's a temporary punishment to get them focused on the job at hand."

Mr. Harbin said the idea for the change was spurred by his and his constituents' frustrations about the slow progress by Reeves Construction in widening and making other upgrades to Furys Ferry Road. The representative noted that he was surprised to find out that Reeves, although nearly two years late on the Furys Ferry project and more than a year late on an interchange project along Mike Padgett Highway, has been hired for another high-profile project on Davis Road and a series of upgrades on Crawford Creek.

"There's no excuse for that," he said.

"If there are delays that push them back, the taxpayers are the ones that ultimately suffer, and I'm trying to prevent that."

The hope now is to have a final version of the proposed legislation in the hopper next week when the session begins.

Until that happens, though, Mr. Harbin said, he must figure out how many days a construction firm would have to fall behind before it is penalized and whether the rule would apply to road projects or all construction projects.

Ultimately, the priority is fairness, so there also will be an exception built into the wording for projects that are late for reasons beyond the contractor's control.

Based on the massive number of gripes he has heard about Furys Ferry, Mr. Harbin says he expects the legislation to coast through both houses.

"Almost all the local legislators have said, 'Let me know when you're done drafting it and I'll support it,'" he said.

"I don't see any problems with it passing."

As for Furys Ferry, DOT Area Engineer Scott Stephens says Reeves is expected to pull its trucks away from the road for good in April. That would be 23 months later than the originally scheduled completion date of May 2004.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next

After state Rep. Ben Harbin completes a final draft of the proposed legislation, he'll collect signatures of other elected officials willing to co-sponsor it. The bill will be assigned to a committee, after which its sponsors will try to get it to the floor of the House of Representatives and then through the Senate.


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