It was only about a year ago controversy and questions surfaced about the $85,000 state grant from the County and Municipal Capital Improvement Trust Fund - and the invoice that accompanied the grant request.
“The puzzle pieces didn’t match,” Councilman Donnie Todd told The Daily Home in April 2011.
The grant was to be used for improved access to the Icademy on the Jefferson State Community College campus in Pell City.
The invoice that accompanied the grant request was from one vendor, Goodgame Company Inc., but another vendor, Golden Excavating Company Inc., actually performed the work, Todd said.
On Feb. 28, 2011, the council approved a motion to pay Golden Excavating Co. $48,000 for excavating work on Veterans Parkway, $11,000 to Hanson Pipe for drainage pipes and $6,000 to McCartney Construction for rock and gravel.
In April 2011, the council rescinded its vote, and the $85,000 grant was never used.
At the time, there were also questions whether the city violated the state bid law, which mandates projects costing more than $50,000 be bid out.
“No public work as defined in this chapter involving a sum in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) shall be split into parts involving sums of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or less for the purpose of evading the requirements of this section,” states the Code of Alabama, Section 39-2-2.
And it appeared that was exactly what the city did.
“What we did…was to make sure we segregated these sums of money from one another so they do not rise above the level of being bid, and what it amounts to as far as the project is concerned over there is that everything will continue to move along,” Hereford told the council during the Feb. 28, 2011 meeting. “If we stop or say we got the whole $85,000 in one place, we would stop the process and have to go into bidding…It’s just as easy to pay the bills and stay below the $50,000 and get every penny on that project.”
Last year, James Lloyd Golden, owner of Golden Excavating Co., told The Daily Home he provided a $75,000 estimate to the city for work on Veterans Parkway.
Hereford told The Daily Home in April 2011 he never saw the invoice or estimate from Golden Excavating Co.
Golden said he gave the invoice to St. Clair County engineer Dan Dahlke, who designed the road.
Dahlke told The Daily Home he believed the invoice was hand-delivered to City Hall.
Golden later billed the city $49,965 for the work, which is under the threshold for bidding a project out. At the time, Golden told The Daily Home he would absorb the loss.
In April 2011, council members said the mayor applied for and received the grant without their knowledge or approval. The council typically approves resolutions authorizing grant applications.
“I was thrilled to get the $85,000,” Hereford said in an interview last April. “We needed it so badly, and, or any money, and there you lay your hands on it, and it tickled me to death. The next thing you know, you’re getting barbecued.”
At last Thursday night’s council work session and at Monday night’s council meeting, Hereford apologized to the council for any embarrassment he may have caused pertaining to the grant and Veterans Parkway road work.
On Monday, the council approved a resolution to send the grant money back to the Alabama Department of Finance.
“…The City has yet to expend such grant funds on said work and has determined that it is in the best interests of its citizens to return the grant funds heretofore received and to reapply for a grant in the same amount to fund roadway improvements that make the Icademy more accessible to the public…,” states the resolution passed unanimously by the council Monday night.
City officials said the city is reapplying for the grant so it can use the $85,000 as matching funds for a federal grant awarded to the city last year.
The $475,000 federal grant awarded to the city was for the paving of Veterans Parkway. The city was required to provide a $111,150 match.
City officials said Golden Excavating Co. and Goodgame Co. have both filed claims against the city for payment of work and materials used for the Veterans Parkway project.
Pell City attorney John Rea said Goodgame Co. paid for the materials provided by Hanson Pipe to avoid litigation with that company and is now filing a claim for repayment.
The City of Pell City now disputes that it is responsible for any claims pertaining to the Veterans Parkway road project.
“It is in the best interest of the City and its citizens that a proceeding be filed in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, requesting the Court to determine and establish the rights of the City, Golden Excavating, Inc., and Goodgame Company, Inc. in and to the aforementioned disputed invoices and debts,” the resolution passed by the council Monday night states. “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Mayor be and he hereby is authorized to direct counsel for the City to file a Declaratory Judgment action in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Alabama, for the purpose of determining whether the City has any liability for the claims of Golden Excavating, Inc. and Goodgame Company, Inc. as aforesaid.”
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