Originally created 11/04/06

Local business protests city's choice on bid

Standing in front of the next downtown Augusta building slated for demolition, the owners and workers of Thompson Building Wrecking Co. appealed directly to the public Friday.

Hiram and Glen Thompson and their employees bemoaned the possibility that, even though the city can reconsider Thompson's bid to tear down the old candy factory for $260,000 less than J&B Construction of Columbia County, city leaders will give the job to J&B.

According to a document signed by six city commissioners, they will give J&B a $692,892 contract to tear down the building on the site where the city will build a new library.

City Attorney Steve Shepard said the document is a signature letter that has been used by commissioners for years. The commissioners come to an agreement on an issue through the letter and then take a public vote later.

In a letter Tuesday to J&B, Geri A. Sams, Augusta's procurement department director, wrote that the commission would ratify the award in its Nov. 9 meeting.

Thompson took the city to court over the demolition bid. The judge ruled last month that Thompson's error in its bid package was only a technicality that city officials could overlook in awarding the bid.

"There's a quarter million dollars at stake," Hiram Thompson said Friday.

At a time when city leaders face raising taxes and cutting services, he is astounded they would spend so much more money on a demolition job.

"How much have they thrown away on other projects that we don't know anything about?" he asked.

Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams, who is leading the push to award the contract to J&B, said Friday that the city will make money with J&B because it will dispose of the candy factory debris at the county landfill.

Robert A. Mullins, Thompson's attorney, called the argument inane. The city claims J&B would pay $150,000 in landfill tipping fees that Thompson won't.

But that's gross payment, not profit, Mr. Mullins said. Even if it was all profit, the city would still be down more than $100,000 because Thompson's bid is $260,000 cheaper, he said.

The Thompsons and about 45 employees consider it an insult that a building right around the corner from their office would be torn down by an out-of-town business.

"We have a lot of mouths to feed right here," Thompson employee Ronnie Williams said. "We have families to support here in Augusta."

Staff writer Sylvia Cooper contributed to this story.

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

What's next:

The commissioners will vote on the bid at Thursday afternoon's commission meeting.


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