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City BOE to rebid practice field project

The Brewton City Board of Education will have to start over with bids for a new practice field and track at T.R. Miller High School after a dispute over the awarding of the original bid.

Last month, the school board awarded a bid for the $2 million project to Hyperion Construction of Pensacola, based on the recommendation of McKee and Associates, the architect for the project.

Brewton company Starfish Inc., which also submitted a bid for the project, filed a protest, citing several issues, including that the board did not announce its budget for the project at the bid opening and that wording of the description of alternates on the bid proposal form.

The alternates include a specific track surface that the board wants to use on the new track.

“I just want the board to understand there’s not a technicality. It’s a mistake that was made. You can’t award a job based on the alternates until you establish a budget,” Starfish Construction’s Lew Najor told board members at a protest hearing Thursday.

Danny White, a Brewton attorney representing Hyperion, said state law allows the board to “waive technical errors” if it is in the best interest of the school board and the error does not give any bidder an edge in the process.

“It was all out in the open,” he said. “Nobody had a competitive advantage.”

Bobby Dennis of McKee and Associates said the architectural firm believes that Starfish had a legitimate protest, and suggested the board had two options: awarding the project to Starfish, which had the low base bid, and eliminating the alternates; or rescinding the awarding of the bid and going through the bid process again.

“The contract cannot be awarded based on the use of alternates,” Dennis said. “Since it is the desire of the school board to use the alternates, we recommend rejecting the bids and advertising the project again.”

The board agreed and voted unanimously to reject all of the bids. Board member Lillie Dove was absent.

“Nobody sitting in this room is glad they are here,” school board member Terrill Neal said. “We are included. We have to rely on what the architect is saying and on his legal counsel. Our hands are tied.”

Board president Stephanie Walker said the board was acting to “treat everyone fairly” in the process.

The project will be funded by a $1 million anonymous donation, with the balance coming from a $20 million bond issue designated for the new middle school and other construction projects.

The board was able to increase its budget for the track and practice field because the middle school construction will cost less than board members originally thought it might.

The athletic improvements at T.R. Miller will also include renovation of the concession stand and restrooms at Brewton Municipal Stadium.