JASPER, Tenn. — A project to build a sidewalk connecting Jasper Elementary School and Marion County High School with the downtown public library in Jasper has been delayed again.
At the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen's November meeting, Gary Cosby, an engineer with CTI Engineers Inc. in Chattanooga, said the project went through the bidding process for a third time last month.
"You would've thought that would have been the lucky one, but it's not," he said.
The apparent low bidder in October had some things missing in the submission, including various signatures, fill-in-the-blanks and dates.
The paperwork was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for approval anyway.
"They [TDOT] have to approve this," Cosby said. "It's their money — most of it is their money. We indicated we felt that [the missing parts of the bid] were minor formalities and could be remedied. They did not agree."
Jasper representatives asked the Southeast Tennessee Development District to intervene on TDOT's ruling, but that effort was unsuccessful, too.
The second bidder for the project did complete the proposal submission fully, but Cosby said that bid of $190,000 was "way, way out of our budget."
He said he couldn't recommend the board "go that high" with the funding for the project.
"I think [Jasper] should get it for less than that," Cosby said.
Mayor Paul Evans recommended the board reject the current bids and rebid the project for a fourth time.
The board voted unanimously to do so.
Evans asked that a checklist be included with the next proposal so bidders could make sure they submit everything properly before the bids are reviewed.
Cosby said the town will try to get a "good, valid bid" on its fourth attempt.
"The problem is TDOT is just very rigid in how they look at it," he said. "If it's not exactly dotted and all T's crossed, they're just not even very considerate."
The city was awarded a $100,000 Transportation Alternatives Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2013, which includes 80 percent funding for the project with a 20 percent hard cash match from the city.
Jasper has so much money invested in the project already Cosby said he could not recommend discontinuing the project, which must be completed by August 2018 to fulfill the grant requirements.
In other business, Evans announced Jasper will be hosting an event called Small Business on the Square in an effort to encourage residents to shop locally.
"We're trying something new this year," he said. "Right now, we have 35 people wanting to set up on the [town] square and be a part of it. It's quite a bit more than I really thought that would reach out and jump on it. We're excited about it and hope that it can become an annual thing, too."
The event will start at 1 p.m. CST on Nov. 25 and will stay open "as long as people want to shop," Evans said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.