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THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2007
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Hartselle I-65 sewer project hits legal snag

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Constructing a tunnel under Interstate 65 to get sewer to city-owned property is still doable, but it's not going to be as simple as the council thought last month.

The contract city leaders authorized the mayor to sign for the work is not legal because it has fixed labor costs, City Attorney Larry Madison said.

"Unit pricing and generalized charges, which are included in this proposal, are not allowed," Madison wrote in a four-page letter to the council.

This change of direction could delay the project at least another two weeks.

Hartselle is employing a seldom-used provision in the public works bid law that allows municipalities to reject bids, then contract with bidders to do work at a reduced rate.

But, what state law refers to as a forced account permits bidders to bill the city only for actual expenses, plus an agreed-upon-profit margin.

Initially, the council received five bids. Morgan Contracts of Baker, Fla., submitted the low bid of $1.635 million.

This bid was more than $1 million above the $558,000 Hartselle budgeted. To comply with the requirements of using a forced account, city leaders rejected the low bid, saying it was unreasonable and not in the interest of Hartselle.

Hartselle then entered into negotiations with Tunco of Hokes Bluff. Mayor Dwight Tankersley said this company was a sub-contractor for three of the companies that submitted bids.

Madison warned the council that Tunco may not be willing to do the project once the city renegotiates the payment meth-od.

Regardless of whether Tunco or some other company does the work, the city will act as the contractor and must bid equipment and material used for the project if they exceed $7,500.

Madison is recommending that the council solicit informal bids from the five initial bidders for the 60-inch tunnel.

City leaders said they have no choice but to do the work because Hartselle owns 18.8 acres east of I-65 near Alabama 36. About a year ago, Hartselle made a commitment to pay more than $2 million for the property near I-65 and Alabama 36.

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