Warner Robins firm selected to build new Bibb animal shelter

pramati@macon.comDecember 27, 2013 

In their final action in office, Bibb County commissioners voted 3-2 Friday to hire International City Builders of Warner Robins as the contractor to build the new animal shelter.

Commissioners, citing potential litigation, met for about 45 minutes behind closed doors. They reopened the meeting to discuss whether to select International City Builders, the low bidder, or Warren Associates Inc., a Macon firm that has worked on several projects for the county, including the under-construction Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center.

In November 2012, voters approved a penny sales tax referendum that called for spending $3 million on the new animal shelter. It will be built on Fulton Mill Road.

At a called meeting last week, commissioners deferred awarding the contract until Friday morning because all the bids received exceeded the project’s estimated $2.6 million in construction costs. International City Builders’ bid of $2.608 million was about $66,000 less than Warren Associates’ bid.

The $3 million budget also included land acquisition and architects’ fees.

Commissioner Lonzy Edwards made a motion to award the bid to Warren Associates, citing that firm’s long history with the county. He said he also wanted to spend special purpose local option sales tax money here rather than in a neighboring county.

“We told the people when we passed the SPLOST that we were going to stimulate the local economy,” Edwards said. “I’m unwilling to spend money outside of Bibb.”

But commissioners defeated Edwards’ motion in a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Gary Bechtel then proposed awarding the contract to International City Builders, which commissioners approved 3-2. Bechtel, Chairman Sam Hart and Commissioner Bert Bivins voted in favor of the measure, while Edwards and Commissioner Joe Allen voted no.

Allen said he voted no on both motions because he thinks the matter should be turned over to the new consolidated government that takes office next week.

“I’m not happy with anything that’s going on,” Allen said.

But Bechtel, who is a commissioner-elect with the consolidated government, noted after the meeting that the new commission essentially would have to start from scratch, since only he and Bivins have been going through the planning process for the shelter for the past several months.

“We were left with very few choices,” Bechtel said. “It was either throw it out now and incur more costs (or award the contract). ... I didn’t think it was fair to the other seven commissioners to come in cold while we’ve been working on it for several months.”

To compensate for all of the bids coming in over budget, Dunwody/Beeland Architects Inc. made some minor adjustments to the plans for the building to lower costs. In addition, commissioners approved using SPLOST savings from building Fire Station 109 toward the animal shelter budget.

Edwards also argued before the vote that commissioners had been told different things about projects that International City Builders had previously worked on. He said commissioners initially were told by consultants that the company had been involved with building the new Houston County animal shelter but then were told differently after questions about problems with that building arose.

“There were representations made by people who had talked with (International City Builders), made on their behalf,” Edwards said.

But Daryl Long, president of the company, said his firm never met with commissioners themselves, so he couldn’t say why they were given conflicting information.

“We’re not sure where that came from,” Long said after the meeting. “We’ve never done any work with the animal shelter in Warner Robins. We’re very pleased (to win the bid).”

Warren Selby, president of Warren Associates, which lost the bid, said it’s time the project got going.

“I’m glad Bibb County is moving forward,” he said. “The commissioners made their decision with what they thought was best for the taxpayers. ... The shelter will be a real positive for the community.”

Bibb County Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon said she’s excited that construction work will soon begin.

“It’s a relief,” she said. “It’s a wonderfully designed shelter. I believe it will meet the needs of the community.”

Tenon said she hopes the new shelter will open in late summer or early fall 2014.

In other commission business Friday, commissioners approved several appropriation items and honored retiring Bibb County Superior Court Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown with a resolution and a watch. During the meeting, Bibb County staff members presented each commissioner with a signed copy of the Bibb County seal and their parking lot signs.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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