|By Dianne Weaver|
Problems surfacing with the Mt. Zion Public Service District's $5.2 million waterline extension were discussed at a public meeting yesterday evening, conducted by the Calhoun Commission.
About 125 people attended the meeting held in the Calhoun courthouse. Citizens expressed concern about getting public water and members of the Mt. Zion PSD, project engineer Jim Hildreth, contractors and others made statements and answered questions.
Mt. Zion PSD secretary-treasurer Wilma Mace, did not attend.
Commissioners Helmick, Westfall and Weaver said "After years of planning and development, the commission's primary concern is that the project move forward."
Community resident Roscoe Gainer said, "It's time to dig ditch," maintaining he is confused why Ronald Lane's low-bid is experiencing problems in meeting bidding guidelines.
Lane said he has complied with all of engineer Hildreth's requests.
Gainer asked Hildreth if he advised PSD members at a recent meeting, if they awarded the contract to Lane "they'd be sorry."
Hildreth was unclear whether he made the statement.
Community member Donald Little said he blames engineer Hildreth for continuing problems with the project, exclaiming "We need water."
PROBLEMS WITH PSD BOARD MINUTES?
PSD board member Shirley Mace said the three meeting minutes recently given to the commission by secretary Wilma Mace did not accurately reflect a motion she had made, seconded by PSD member Sharon Postalwait, and voted upon to approve the low-bid submitted by Ron Lane, Inc.
Calhoun Commission President Bob Weaver said "I find this really disturbing."
The commissioners, in an opening statement, said they felt Lane's bid ought to be accepted or rejected in the stated time frames, so the project could get started.
Ron Lane told the group that he has prices locked-in for materials, which will likely go up 40-50% if his bid is not accepted in the original time frames.
House of Delegate member David Walker commended the commission for getting the project unstuck after right-of-ways failed to be secured in 2008, urging "all parties to move ahead and get the project going."
Engineer Hildreth said Lane's original problem, no embossed seal on his bid, was resolved after the PSD reportedly hired an attorney for about $2,500. The attorney indicated the seal was not needed.
NAILING DOWN TIME FRAMES
Commissioner Helmick continued to question Hildreth about getting the project moving, after which Hildreth responded, "It's hard to give you a date," citing a lengthy list of protocols that have to be followed.
Concern was expressed to Hildreth over possible lawsuits against the Mt. Zion PSD by contractors, and how such lawsuits would affect the project.
Hildreth responded "We've had abnormalities in the bidding process. We've had to address issues that would not ordinarily occur.
Fred Rader with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council assured those attending that lawsuits would not keep the project from being completed.
Commissioner Westfall continued to ask what would happen if the current bid was not approved.
Hildreth responded, "There could be a time extension, or it could be re-bid, or we could find another way to go."
WHERE'S THE SUNSHINE?
Retired school teacher Pamela Bartlett Breese said "Somebody is not doing their job," further asking the commission if they have ever received the financial records of the PSD.
Commissioner Weaver told the group an FOIA has been issued to Mace, requesting all official minutes of the Mt. Zion PSD for years 2004 through 2009, in addition to all official audits for the same time period.
Weaver, in the written request, did not preclude other official requests to be submitted by the commission or by the prosecuting attorney.
Attorney Kelly Morgan spoke on behalf of Welding, Inc., the second bidder for the water tank section of of the bid, saying engineer Hildreth declined to open Welding, Inc's bid, saying the company was "not a responsible bidder."
Morgan said Welding, Inc's bid was lower, and that the company had filed a bid protest, to which Hildreth failed to respond. Hildreth said the company did not procure the proper bid specs, but attorney Morgan said they had a canceled check proving they did.
Welding, Inc., a company that has been in the tank business for 62 years is threatening to file a lawsuit, claiming they complied.
The Calhoun Commission has some financial oversight over the PSD, with WV Code saying the PSD is responsible to submit regular accounting. The commission also appoints PSD board members incrementally.
The meeting concluded with the commissioners expressing hope that the project will develop as planned.