(11/24/2009)
The Mt. Zion PSD board, calling it a reluctant move, voted to award the pipe contract to contractor Bruce Allen during a meeting Friday, indicating they want to move the $5.2 million water project ahead.

Board members said they had been advised by the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council that the bidding needed to be approved by December 31, or the project could falter.

"We need to get water to our communities," said PSD board member Roscoe Gainer.

Contractor Ron Lane's original bid was $200,000 less than Bruce Allen's, but his bid was rejected by project engineer Jim Hildreth, telling board members at a public meeting they would be sorry if they approved it.

Hildreth said his decision over rejecting Lane's bid was related to "risk management," indicating he believed Lane could not perform up to standards, although Lane had supplied a $161,000 cash performance bond.

Lane has been asking for a return of his $161,000 cash bond.

Representatives of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council advised the Mt. Zion PSD earlier this month that Lane's latest bid was unacceptable to USDA Rural Development because it contained a price clause that covered pipe increases.

Although Lane removed any additional cost stipulations from his bid Friday night, that action was deemed too late under time frames.

Lane said "I think the board is doing what they have to do to move the job ahead," while saying "We've been blackmailed," referring to engineer Jim Hildreth.

"This has been hard to take," he said, saying he will be legally seeking resolution in the court.

"I think this job was stolen from me. I have nothing to hide," Lane told meeting attendees, "We've had a lot of support from this community. This is not over. My attorney says there are improper things with this bidding process."

Welding, Inc. claims Hildreth declined to open their bid, saying the company was "not a responsible bidder."

Welding, Inc. threatened Friday to bring an injunction against the project.

Hildreth has said Welding, Inc. did not procure the proper bid specs package, but their attorney said they had a canceled check proving otherwise.

Lane said Friday Hildreth was being investigated for possible violations of Code of Ethics.

The Arnoldsburg contractor maintains there is evidence of conflict of interest and bid interference.

"We found out that between 1993-2006 Mr. Hildreth is listed as a vice-president and treasurer of a company, implying that ownership has created a conflict of interest with his engineering services," Lane stated.

Lane turned to Hildreth, saying, "Congratulations Jim, you did a great job stealing a pipeline job."

During Friday's board meeting, eight agenda items were discussed and some voted upon, mostly following discussion during executive sessions.

The board heard from engineer Hildreth his views on how to bring the water project to construction.

The board did approve an addendum to Hildreth's contract, which calls for rate increases to his engineering firm.

The board had been unable to find any record of a vote on the contracts approval in the board's minutes, although it had been signed and "approved."

They also re-affirmed the bid to Mid-Atlantic for the erection of tanks.

Contract approval was made for services provided by attorney Tom Whittier and a bond approval.

It was unclear if the PSD had been provided with official documents giving recommendations.

RECENT RELATED STORIES

MACE RESIGNS FROM LONG-TIME PSD POSITION

MT. ZION PSD SECRETARY-TREASURER PLACED ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE - Board Approves Allen's Pipe Bid "Reluctantly"

WV PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION OF MT. ZION PSD - First Step Requesting Minutes And Audits Back To 2006

MT. ZION PSD BOARD DID NOT APPROVE ENGINEER'S RATE INCREASES - Ron Lane, Inc. Bid In Jeopardy, Top Priority To Get Water


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