The end is near for the old Lowndes County office of the Mississippi State University Extension Center.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to award the bid for tearing down the building, which is located on Third Avenue North across from Franklin Academy, to Burns Dirt Construction.
By awarding the bid, the supervisors approved tearing down the building.
County Purchase Clerk Terry Thompson approached the board with five bids: two from Burns; one from Ellis Construction Co.; and two from Ronnie Jones Construction.
Burns’ bid for demolition of the house and foundation with landfill fees paid by the county was for $5,725 and was the lowest of the five bids.
Burns also included a bid to fill a 2-foot “depression” underneath the house that is lower than the surrounding level of the building. He proposed a bid of $3,890 to fill the hole. Thompson said Burns’ concern was there wouldn’t be enough dirt on scene to fill the hole, which is around 80 feet by 40 feet.
“Did he say what he plans on filling it in with?” District 1 Supervisor and Board President Harry Sanders asked. “Is it clay gravel or topsoil or what?”
“He just said, ‘filler,'” Thompson replied.
Sanders suggested moving ahead and offering to the lowest bidder without the filling, saying the county can look at filling it “after the (building) is gone and see how much fill actually needs to be done and determine if the Road Department could do it or maybe the city could help us do it or maybe put it out for bid again, adding “$3,890, that’s a lot of money …”
Thompson also brought up whether the county should allow people to “salvage” items from the building.
“We’ve had people indicate they would like to salvage some of the items off of the house,” Thompson said, noting windows and doors as some items of interest.
Sanders argued that he wants to keep the county out of that decision and leave it up to the contractor.
“Once we award that contract, that building belongs to whoever has that contract,” Sanders said.
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks agreed, saying, “I don’t think we need to get involved.”
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley went before the Columbus Historical Preservation Commission last week and said they unanimously voted to allow the county to demolish it, but they brought up salvaging items, too.
“They suggested if there are people who want to salvage, we let them salvage,” Billingsley said, noting he also heard of some people interested in salvaging items from the building
“The problem here is if we put this out for bid as is to somebody, (each bidder) might have decided when they put their bid in that they were going to salvage some of that stuff and that’s how they came up with their price,” he said. “Now, if we change the rules after we put it out for bids, and we take the doors and the windows and the kitchen sink and air conditioning units and those kind of things, that could very easily mess up what their bid was.”
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith argued that none of the bids imply that the bidder will purchase the house from the county.
“Now, if part of the bid is to sell the house to the bidder, then it needs to be listed in here. Because, otherwise, the house still belongs to the county,” he said, noting the county cannot “give” anything away.
County Attorney Tim Hudson responded that the county can make “a donation.”
Brooks made the motion to go ahead with the demolition without the filling of the depression. When Sanders asked if he wanted to include in the motion leaving any items for salvaging to the contractor, Brooks responded, “I don’t even want to put that in the motion.”
When the matter finally came to vote, Smith was reluctant to vote in favor of the motion but finally did. When Sanders asked if he had any “reservations,” he started to offer his thoughts but pulled back and said, “Just go on.”
Smith followed up via phone interview and said he thought there would be more discussion.
“But I was ready to move on to the next topic,” he said.
Board president questions paying other entity’s bills
As the supervisors were about the approve the claims docket, Sanders brought up some concerns about the county paying some of the Department of Human Services’ bills.
“I’ve noticed we’ve paid the cellphone bill, the telephone bill, the janitorial bill and the security bill for the Department of Human Services,” he said, noting he thought DHS paid depreciation to the county on the building it uses.
“We’re supposed to have an (memorandum of understanding) signed, and we’ve tried to get together with them on the MOU to do that,” he added.
Sanders said the DHS paid depreciation on the old building, but it was destroyed after a tornado eight or nine years ago. According to Sanders, the county built a new building, which is located on College Street and 16th Street South, but a contract was never agreed on.
Billingsley said there were discussions but they broke down when the person went on sick leave.
“Can you get with her boss or someone down there in Jackson?” Sanders asked, noting the county is paying “in the neighborhood somewhere of $3,000 a month.
“We need to get this straight because this has been going on now for three years, and it seems like they owe us a good bit of money.”
Sanders suggested the county stop paying to get DHS’ attention.
“It’s embarrassing. I know they’ve changed department heads, but I don’t know why we keep paying their cellphone bills,” he said. “We’ve got to approve paying their bills this month, but I don’t think we need to pay them next month until they respond to what we asked.”