The Fairhope City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to extend by one year its million-dollar emergency debris removal and disposal contract with a company owned by State Sen. Trip Pittman, who represents the district in Montgomery.
The contract with Pittman Tractor was extended, despite the city calling for more bids after Mayor Tim Kant said some councilors and members of the public complained about the contract being awarded to the local state Senator.
The council decided to reject four new bids, which included one from Pittman Tractor, because Pittman’s current contract cost less than the cheapest of the new bids.
“It’s $684,000 less than the new bids,” said Council President Jack Burrell.
Of the new bids, DRC Emergency Services came in as the cheapest at just less than $1.7 million, Crowder Gulf was the next highest at just less than $1.8 million, Unified Recovery Group came in at just over $1.8 million and Pittman Tractor was the highest at nearly $2 million.
Using the same criteria, which includes numbers from damage estimates from Hurricane Ivan, the current Pittman Tractor contract comes in at $1,089,200.
Kant and a group of three department heads who judged the new bids had originally recommended the council accept the Crowder Gulf bid, but at a work session before the meeting, council was informed of the discount of keeping the current contract.
“I was told it was the same (price), but I guess mistakes happen,” Kant told council.
During the meeting, Burrell asked City Attorney Tut Wynne if there was a conflict of interest with awarding the contract to Pittman.
“The previous council approved it,” he said. “It seems like there’s no reason it can’t be extended.”
In other business, the council awarded an engineering contract for traffic control upgrade to Neel-Schafer for work on five intersections downtown. The work includes three intersections along Fairhope Avenue and two along Section Street, according to Scott Sligh, electric superintendent.
He said upgrades include new pedestrian crossing signals, mast light poles and controller upgrades.
The council also approved a project to upgrade the restroom facilities at Fairhope Pier. Kant said the Public Works department would do most of the work associated with the $25,000 project. The project would be for renovations to the restrooms and would make them wheelchair accessible.
The council had a lengthy discussion during the work session about whether or not to add $10,000 to the project budget for air conditioning, before ultimately deciding not to spend the extra money.
The council also agreed to pay retirees a total of $48,000 in lump sum payments, in accordance with a bill passed by the Alabama Legislature as a cost-of-living raise.
The city will pay the money to Retirement Services of Alabama during the 2015-2016 budget cycle.