Beverly still has issues with Fort Hawkins bid

mlee@macon.comFebruary 18, 2014 

ATLANTA -- After a meeting with a Fort Hawkins official, state Rep. James Beverly said there was a lack of “process” over how that body spent some tax money, and he plans to continue a systematic look into all quasi-government entities in Macon-Bibb County.

“There were some issues, in our opinion, with bidding the Fort Hawkins visitor center” that had to do with openness, Beverly said.

He spoke after he and state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon and chairwoman of the Macon-Bibb delegation, concluded a meeting with Mike Cranford, the Fort Hawkins Commission chairman.

The Fort Hawkins Commission is an all-volunteer body. County voters approved $750,000 for a visitors center as part of a sales tax initiative passed in 2011.

“Building a log visitor center is a very unique thing,” Cranford said. Two companies showed interest in the work, though, and log home builder Southland put in a cheaper bid, he said. The commission had settled on a log building to complement the old federal fort, which predates the city of Macon.

But the specialty log work was only a portion of the $750,000 visitors center budget. Much of the rest is for what a general contractor would organize, such as plumbing and electricity work.

What wasn’t formally bid was the job of being the general contractor.

“We went to the log company and asked them” for suggestions on a general contractor, Cranford said, and the company came up with several names.

“We contacted the people. ... Only one called back,” he said -- the general contractor whose sign went up over the building site, Warren Associates of Macon.

Beverly, D-Macon, is concerned with the lack of what he called an open “process” in a deal that involved public money.

“There has to be, for authorities and commissions, a process in place that’s transparent,” Beverly said.

He said he wants a performance audit of all Macon-Bibb quasi-governmental agencies.

Performance audits look at governmental bodies and measure their actual performance against their promised performance. The state regularly performs such audits on government agencies to figure out how efficient or effective they are. The result is usually more a collection of data and a narrative story, rather than the columns of numbers in a financial audit.

Macon-Bibb is part of at least five local development authorities, including one created by Beverly.

Cranford called the meeting “productive,” though he said he wished the lawmakers would have called him before going to the media last week with a plan to dissolve the authority.

Beverly said the lawmakers are not picking on Fort Hawkins. They are examining all agencies, he said, and the Fort Hawkins Commission is the first one they came to.

A quorum of lawmakers did not appear at the meeting, and no official business was conducted.

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