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Canton stuck in bidding quagmire

A flawed bidding process for a demolition job that left a local company out of the loop is causing a major headache for the town of Canton.

The town put its engineering contractor, McGill and Associates, in charge of soliciting bids for the demolition of the old community store building. The old downtown building, which was once a boarding house, has major drainage issues and has been vacant for some time.

McGill selected D.H. Griffin, an international firm with an Asheville office. A few days after the job was awarded, Canton Alderman Eric Dills bumped into an employee of Medford Enterprises, a local company that had also bid on the project. The man explained to Dills that his company had not won the project, but the bid amount he named was lower than that of D.H. Griffin’s bid.

Dills was concerned that a local company had not gotten a fair shot at the project, and brought his concerns before the board at its next meeting.

“I was wondering why we had taken the bid of a national company over a Canton-based company,” said Dills. “We had said before that we wanted the local guys to get shots at our contracts. Canton’s always pushing, ‘spend your money in Canton,’ and we need to lead by example.”

Following the meeting, Interim Town Manager Al Matthews asked McGill and Associates exactly what had happened during the bidding process. Matthews said he discovered that McGills solicited bids verbally rather than writing up the specifications for the project and sending them out — the standard form of soliciting bids for government projects.

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Describing the project verbally to companies when soliciting bids left room for confusion. Medford Enterprises either wasn’t told or misunderstood some elements of the project, so their bid didn’t reflect the exact work McGill was looking for.

Though the demolition contract has already been awarded to D.H. Griffin, McGill and Associates called for a rebid upon hearing this information.

“This time, (the bid) was accompanied by a written set of specifications,” said Matthews.

But D.H. Griffin, which believed it had already been picked for the demolition project, protested.

“We received a protest from D.H. Griffin,” said Matthews. “They said we already had a contractual arrangement with them to provide work.”

D.H. Griffin was apparently upset enough to threaten legal action against the town. Matthews said the process has been stalled, and the town has yet to award a second bid.

“We’re withholding the awarding of a contract until such time that we feel any potential legal matters can be addressed,” he said. “We did not award to either company, and will not until legal matters can be resolved.”

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