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June 24, 2014

Argument over hiring local contractor delays bid for Ekin Center project in New Albany

Commission to meet Monday with deadline looming

NEW ALBANY — A contentious debate over whether the city should hire a New Albany contractor to refurbish a recreation center at a higher cost has put the project up against a federal deadline.

The New Albany Redevelopment Commission received two bids for repairs to the Ekin Avenue Recreation Center. Upton Pry Inc., of New Albany, submitted a base bid of $254,000, while Louisville-based Myers-White Inc. offered a $263,000 contract for the work.

However, the commission requested estimates for several alternates to the project, and when those were figured, Upton Pry’s bid totaled $302,000, or $26,000 more than the proposal of Myers-White.

Despite the $26,000 difference, New Albany City Councilman Dan Coffey, who is also a member of the redevelopment commission, said the contract should be rewarded to the local firm.

“I believe in taking care of the people from home,” Coffey said.

When it can be avoided, local taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent to hire nonlocal contractors, he continued.

However, the funding source for the Ekin Avenue Recreation Center work — Community Development Block Grant money — is issued by the federal government. And according to David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, a bid for the project must be awarded by the end of the month or New Albany will lose the money.

Also, there’s a limit on how much federal money the city can spend on the project, Duggins continued.

Both base bids were higher than the engineer’s estimate, however, the Myers-White proposal, including the alternate options, was within the federal allotment for the work, he said.

“We need to have a legitimate reason not to take the low bid,” Duggins said.

Coffey refused to vote to accept the contract from Myers-White, and there were only three commission members present out of five. A minimum of three commission votes are needed to approve a contract.

The alternates for the project include painting and brick work for the center, and Duggins said they are important improvements.

But Coffey asked the commission to instead vote to only accept the base bid, which was lower for Upton Pry.

Commission President Irving Joshua and commission member Adam Dickey disagreed strongly with Coffey’s proposal.

Joshua accused Coffey of holding the commission “hostage” by refusing to vote to accept the low bid.

“I think this is an inappropriate precedent,” Joshua said.

The community isn’t just New Albany, as the city can’t isolate itself from the rest of the region, Dickey added.

Whether it’s Louisville or Corydon, New Albany residents and businesses work in other cities or attract customers from places outside of Floyd County, he continued.

“Some of our bigger businesses draw on those other communities to survive,” Dickey said.

An engineer hired by the city to design the project said one of the partners of Myers-White is a Floyd County resident.  

Upton Pry is a solid firm, but there was an equal bidding process for the project and Myers-White submitted the lowest proposal, he continued.

Furthermore, the city is up against a deadline to fund the much needed project for the center, Dickey said.

When considering the number of change orders commonly approved for contracts, the city has often accepted bids that weren’t the lowest when the final cost was tallied, Coffey said after the meeting.

Upton Pry traditionally hires local residents and they pay Floyd County property taxes, Coffey said. The city may spend $26,000 more to hire the firm, but it will be worth it when considering the taxes that will be paid and local residents who will be working on the project, he continued.

The commission took no action on the bids, and instead recessed until 8:30 a.m. Monday. The two remaining commission members, Councilman John Gonder and Edward Hancock, may be in attendance at that time which could mean the Myers-White bid may be approved.

City officials said a decision has to be made Monday in order to beat the deadline to use the CDBG funds, which are from last year’s allotment.

The meeting will be held in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building.

 

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07_28_Nat'l_Dance_1w.jpg

Motion Studio's junior company performs "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in celebration of National Dance Day at the Bicentennial Park in New Albany Saturday. The junior company, ages 7-11, have been working with Motion Studios on the ballet routine for the past four months.

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