Originally created 10/21/06

Ruling helps make way for new library



A judge has lifted a restraining order that blocked the demolition of a downtown building where the new Augusta library will be built.

Thursday's ruling by Judge Neal W. Dickert also clears the city commissioners to reconsider a bid that could save Augusta taxpayers more than a quarter-million dollars.

Judge Dickert issued his ruling in the Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit filed by Thompson Building Wrecking Co. against the city. In an order made public Friday, Judge Dickert dissolved the temporary restraining order in place since last month and denied Thompson's request for an injunction.

The ruling was a win for both sides, said Stephen Shepard, the city attorney. The city gets to move forward with the project and it clarifies specifics dealing with the bidding process.

Thompson owner Hiram Thompson and his attorney Robert Mullins were pleased with the ruling because it allows commissioners to reconsider Thompson's bid to demolish the former candy factory on Telfair Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets.

"They can still reject it (Thompson's bid), but they can still consider it," Mr. Mullins said.

The dispute began with the city's request for proposals for the demolition of the candy factory building. Thompson was among six companies to submit a bid by the July 12 deadline. But Thompson's package did not contain documentation verifying the company's bid was covered by a bond. For this reason, the city's procurement department rejected it.

Thompson wasn't the only bidder out of compliance with the city's policy requiring all material conditions to be included in the bid packages. According to court documents and city records, four of the six were out of compliance but Thompson's bid was the only one rejected, Mr. Thompson said.

"That's where we're puzzled," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Shepard said the judge's ruling clarified that Thompson's bid error was a matter of timeliness and not a failure on a material issue.

The commission's administrative services committee recommended the bid be awarded to J&B Construction & Services of Columbia County.

Because the judge ruled that Thompson's bid error was a technicality and the city commissioners are free to reconsider it, Mr. Thompson said he hopes the commissioners will take into consideration how his bid will save taxpayers more than $250,000 in a time of budget crisis.

Mr. Mullins said he thinks the city's attempt to mitigate the higher cost of the J&B Construction by having the company pledge to use the Richmond County landfill, which would result in more than an estimated $220,000 in landfill fees, is unfair. Nowhere is disposal an issue, he said. And even if that is factored into the city's costs, the city's still paying $40,000 more, he said.

"This has gotten to be a matter of principle," Mr. Thompson said. "This is a slap in the face of the taxpayers of Richmond County."

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

WHAT'S NEXT:

The city commissioners could schedule a vote on awarding the demolition contract by Nov. 9. Once the building is torn down, construction of a new library can begin.



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