Port must start from scratch on bids for major contract
GULFPORT — W.C. Fore Trucking Inc. is protesting the state Port Commission’s decision to pass him over as the low bidder on a multimillion-dollar contract. The project is to dredge the last 24 acres the port plans to fill as part of Katrina restoration and expansion.
The port received $570 million in federal funding for the port projects. The commission approved a $6.7 million contract with Matthews Marine Inc. of Pass Christian, finding the company was the lowest and best bidder to dredge the acreage and deposit the spoils on Deer Island. Fore’s bid was $628,000 lower than the one submitted by Matthews, the second-lowest bidder.
“Just because it’s federal money, you don’t have to play fast and loose with it,” said Gulfport attorney Jim Wetzel, who represents Fore.”Whether it’s federal money or state money, it all comes out of our pocket.”
Wetzel filed a protest on Fore’s behalf with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees state contracts and purchasing. DFA had planned to grant Fore a hearing, Executive Director Kevin Upchurch said Friday, but then discovered a more fundamental problem. The port failed to secure approval for the Matthews Marine contract from DFA’s procurement board — a requirement when the contract amount exceeds $5 million.
Upchurch notified the port in August the contract would have to be cancelled. The Mississippi Development Authority, which receives and distributes the federal Katrina money, also must approve the port contracts. In this case, MDA refused, saying the bids should be re-evaluated and scored based on qualification factors. The Port Commission re-evaluated the bids, once again awarding Matthews the contract Aug. 24.
Port staff members are now reviewing the evaluation process to make sure it was properly handled, the port’s executive director, Don Allee, said Friday. He said he could not discuss the bids because the contract has not been finalized.
“We think this will get resolved with all questions answered pretty shortly,” Allee said.
Upchurch, who also chairs the procurement board, has reiterated DFA’s position to the port.”It was not handled properly,” he said.”If I tell them to cancel what they’ve done, they have no option but to rebid it.”
Upchurch also told the Sun Herald:”I have gone back on record to make our position clear. That (re-evaluation) is not acceptable. They should cease and desist. It’s over. I was told yesterday they were honoring that and were going back through the process, as they were instructed yesterday. I think they realize they have to cancel what they’ve done and start over. It will be as if nothing’s happened.”
Patience and planning are essential to state progress
- Charlie Mitchell - www.sunherald.com: www.sunherald.com/2011/08/30/3387553/patience-and-….html
Haley Barbour sees a day when expansion under way at the Panama Canal brings unprecedented prosperity to Mississippi.
Phil Bryant, the Republican nominee seeking to follow Barbour as governor, sees a day when Jackson is a center for health care with a dozen or more medical centers rivaling Houston, Texas.
Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree will likely espouse some long-range goals, too.
It’s the”vision thing” we hear about.
But Barbour, preparing to leave office after eight years, says one thing he has discovered during his two terms is that state government is poorly structured to engage in long-range planning, especially of the type needed to create lasting economic development.
At a meeting of the state’s newspaper industry in July, Barbour went so far as to say it is impossible for the legislators to think beyond their four-year terms. It was a criticism, but also a reality. There are exceptions, such as multiyear highway programs, but lawmakers are more like firefighters. Even if they had wanted to devise long-term projects, they’ve been putting out blazes, scrambling to find funds to get the state through the next 12 months. They’ve had no time (and little interest) in developmental measures.
That’s what makes organizations such as Advance Mississippi and the Mississippi Economic Council essential. They and several other groups take the state’s economic pulse constantly.
In addition to speaking to the press, Barbour was on the Gulf Coast to meet privately with stakeholders on his much-maligned notion that a serious investment in port facilities now will result in thousands of jobs during the next 10 to 15 years.
The work in Panama will double the canal’s capacity by 2014. As Barbour and many others see it, Gulfport — if prepared — would become the most affordable destination for hundreds of ships delivering goods from Asian ports.
Today, most of those ships offload on the West Coast. Containers are dispatched to their destinations via truck or train. Once the canal is expanded, the most time- and cost-efficient route to any point east of the Mississippi would be through Gulfport, but only if it has the infrastructure.