Contractor controversy over Civic Center expansion

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Columbus council is moving ahead with infrastructure projects promised to voters with the penny sales tax.

Members have approved a bond packet with a price tag of $131 million to build roads, fire stations, a natatorium, a city service center and a parking garage,

Some of that money is also going to fund a new ice rink at the Civic Center.

Tuesday, council granted the project to a contractor out of Atlanta for a little under $6 million, knocking out several local companies. Columbus contractors who threw their hat in the ring say they feel discriminated against with the move, especially Danny Dean. His bid was $88,000 less than the Atlanta contractor who got the job but he wasn't qualified to get the work.

"They have one sentence in the whole bid document that reads that you must have completed three $7 million projects over the past 5 years. First of all, there's been very few $7 million projects in the past five years in Columbus and with as many general contractors as there are, the chances of even one getting all three would be like winning the lottery," Dean said.

City officials told Dean they understand the concerns of local contracting companies and are considering changing their specifications in future construction bids.

"They have legitimate concerns and we couldn't adjust the bid qualifications but going forward with future projects like the natatorium, city service center, and parking garage, we're going to go back and take a look at the qualifications that we can include more local vendors, construction companies on those projects," explained City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

The city manager is hoping to begin construction at the Civic Center rink in early February.

Taxpayers can expect work to start on some of the other Local Option Sales Tax projects this year, with completion on many of them within 18-24 months.

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