City racing to save cool grant funds

Published 12:03 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to reject previously accepted bids for air conditioning replacements for city buildings at an emergency special call meeting Friday.

The board awarded an approximately $57,000 contract to Thorpe Sheet Metal of Natchez to replace heating and air conditioning units at City Hall, fire stations No. 1 and No. 2, public works and the police department at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

City Attorney Hyde Carby told the aldermen at the emergency meeting that upon further inspection of the bids, the engineering department found the bids irregular.

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The project is being funded by $67,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds left over from a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to replace bulbs in traffic lights with LED bulbs.

All parts used in ARRA-funded projects must be American-made, and in the case of this project, the new air conditioning units must have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio rating of 15.

Neither of those two stipulations were included or clearly defined in the three bids that were submitted to the city, Carby said.

Mayor Butch Brown and Carby said they worked Friday to find out how the city could address those issues under the significant time constraint for the project. If the city does not have the air conditioning replacement project finished by Aug. 15, it loses the funding, Brown said.

Mississippi procurement law, Carby said, allows for a municipality to use a procedure other than a competitive bidding process in the event that a delay in the drawn-out nature of the bidding process would adversely impact the city.

Carby said representatives from the state auditor’s office agree that re-advertising for the bids would more than likely cause the city to lose the grant.

The aldermen voted to notify the three bidders — Thorpe Sheet Metal, Natchez Heating and Cooling and Premo Stallone — of the irregular bids and ask them to submit new bids that account for the ARRA Buy America clause and the 15 SEER rating.

Brown said the two specifications were included in the original bid package.

The bids must be submitted to the city by 3 p.m. Monday.