State lawmaker presses for Fort Hawkins review

mlee@macon.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Fort_Hawkins

The new visitors center at Fort Hawkins.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

ATLANTA -- State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, wants an inspection of a Fort Hawkins contract, while fort officials invite the scrutiny and say their books are open.

At issue is how Fort Hawkins managers contracted out $750,000 in sales tax proceeds set aside for the historic fort’s visitor center and other works on the site.

“When we got the money, we found two companies” that do log-building work, said Fort Hawkins Commission Chairman Mike Cranford. “The commission had the plans for how we wanted the place to look,” he said, and so they gave those plans to those two companies: Hearthstone and Southland.

“Southland was about $100,000 cheaper,” so they got the contract, Cranford said.

Each step the commission followed complied with what the city attorney told its members, Cranford said.

“The way it was explained to me is this project is so unique that it’s almost like a sole source provider,” he said. “I have full documentation, all emails, full contracts. ... Anybody is welcome to look.”

Beverly said there “has to be further investigation into how the deal flow happened.”

He said he received a tip and talked to someone who alleged that a contract was not put out for bid.

The next step, Beverly said, is to “review this with the delegation and make recommendations how to go forward.”

Macon-Bibb’s eight state lawmakers can make some decisions about the consolidated government’s organization.

Last week, the delegation voted to abolish the all-volunteer Fort Hawkins Commission, but no bill has been drafted or filed.

The delegation is reviewing all of Macon-Bibb County’s independent boards, commissions and authorities this year.

Macon-Bibb voters approved spending $750,000 on the fort using part of the penny sales tax approved in 2011.

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