Catoosa County Board of Commissioners have approved a contract to demolish and clear the site of a county-owned building at the corner of Nashville and Sparks streets that was destroyed by the April 27 tornado.
Once owned by Ringgold Telephone Company, the building was bought by the county in 2003 as a planned home for local governmental offices. Instead, the current administrative building was constructed at 800 LaFayette St., adjacent the post office, and the Nashville Street building was leased to the local Division of Family and Children Services.
The local DFACS office has since relocated and signed a three-year lease on space at the Fort Oglethorpe Municipal Complex.
Thought condemned, the DFACS building in Ringgold has been untouched during cleanup efforts following the storm.
During discussion about the demolition contract being awarded, County Attorney Clifton "Skip" Patty pointed out that Ringgold officials have questioned why nothing had been done to the property nearly five months after the storm. City officials have questioned the propriety of the county's legal action against business owners who have yet to clear condemned sites while allowing one of its own buildings to become an eyesore.
Bids for clearing the site, including its concrete slab foundation, were submitted by several companies in response to a 40-page document spelling out what would be required.
A major concern was whether or not the 46-year-old building would require special consideration for removal of any asbestos found at the site.
County Manager Mike Helton proposed the commissioners accept a bid by Cartersville-based Cornerstone Demolition and Grading Inc. to perform the work. Helton also asked for permission to negotiate with that company to see if they would accept about $3,000 less than their winning bid to match the county insurer's offer of $70,887 for demolition.
Commissioner Jim Cutler said he would prefer hiring a local firm for the project and asked why lower bidders, including some based in Catoosa County, had been rejected.
Helton said Cornerstone was the only firm that met all instructions specified in the bid proposal. Those instructions mandate the demolition, disposal and recycling of the building and its materials be environmentally safe, that the site be secure and that bidders can provide proof of experience and the ability to meet state and federal standards.
"I'd like to give local companies a chance, but they must meet all bid requirements," Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.
Greene also considered it a plus that Cornerstone has committed to having the work complete within two months of beginning actual demolition.
Commissioner Bobby Winters, who has experience in construction, said, "Some of these low bidders have not worked on a government building. The requirements are different."
Patty said the county requires all bidding firms to prove they pay workers compensation insurance, have liability coverage and meet e-verify requirements.
"We made everything clear in the bid notice," he said.
Cutler asked if all bids could be rejected and the process begun anew, but Greene and the other commissioners agreed that everyone had had an equal opportunity to meet the bid specifications and that it was time to move forward.
When Cutler asked what might occur if a local company that did not meet the bid requirements was hired, County Attorney Chad Young offered his opinion that the consequences could be costly.
"If we willingly hire a firm that doesn't meet federal and state specification, the county could be penalized or be banned from applying for grants," Young said.
Having his objections and questions answered to his satisfaction, Cutler joined in the 4-0 vote to award the contract to Cornerstone.
The commissioners approved the contract last Tuesday and by week's end had begun testing for asbestos at the site.