A proposed deal for a Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board (PWWSB) contractor has again pitted members of the board against each other.

In a recent meeting the board tentatively approved a $25,000-per-month contract for Nia Bradley to take over the day-to-day operations of the authority from former Executive Director Bill Swopes, who retired.

After a review of the contract, though, attorney James Laura is set to recommend to the board that the contract be bid out, per state law.

“The contract was awarded conditionally to address a need for leadership,” Laura said. “The board needed to have someone for the day-to-day operations, but the contract wasn’t awarded.”

Commissioner Russell Heidelberg called out those members who voted in favor of the contract. He said in the five-year, $1.5 million contract, the board agreed to give Bradley a cell phone and a vehicle. Because of this, Heidelberg argued that the contract technically makes her an employee.

“You know you don’t do that for a contractor,” he said.

The proposed contract states Bradley is not considered an employee, but the language seems unclear.

“The parties agree the contractor is not an employee, but will act as an agent of Water and Sewer Board,” the contract states. “This agreement shall be interpreted and construed as creating and establishing the relationship of employer and employee between Water and Sewer Board and Contractor.”

The contract does not provide health insurance, but notes company credit cards and a vehicle would be available for Bradley’s use.

Heidelberg also argued it allows the board to work around the Mobile County Personnel Board.

“They are getting her to do what Swopes was doing,” he said. “It’s unconscionable how much money they’re paying her.

Laura confirmed the deal was for $25,000 per month, but clarified it would allow Bradley to hire up to two employees to help. So, he said, the deal was $25,000 per month for three employees and not just one contractor.

The board expects to hire for the position through the personnel board, Laura said, but it will take time.

Bradley found herself in the middle of a board tug-of-war previously when the PWWSB awarded her a $7,500-per-month contract to help them with compliance issues. The terms of that deal forced the board to pay out the remainder of the contract if it was terminated for any reason. The same clause is part of the proposed contract as well.

In September 2015, the board terminated its $400,000-per-month agreement with its manager, Severn Trent. Since that time, the board and its employees have had control of the system’s day-to-day operations.

(Photo | Lagniappe) The Prichard water board considered awarding a $1.5 million no-bid management contract to Nia Bradley last week.