A few months ago, we noted the criticism Columbia County commissioners received when they ran into problems with the low bidder on a Springlakes drainage project.
County staffers had recommended spending $200,000 more to use the next-higher bidder because of concerns they had about the low bidder, but commissioners went strictly by the numbers.
Commissioners now say that low bidder has made a mess and they’ve ordered him off the job. It’s being sorted out in court.
Then, on Tuesday, the Board of Education did the opposite: For their first time ever, they rejected a low bid and awarded the job of site prep for the new Columbia Middle School to the next bidder, at some $70,000 more than the $2.07 million low bid.
Thus, criticism from the other direction: Why spend more money than you have to?
In this case, the board members took the advice of their staff. Knowing the project has a very tight schedule to be ready for the 2013-14 school year, they learned the low bidder just two months ago was kicked off a big Marietta project for taking too long, and has a record of work-safety fines.
The staff recommended going with the next bidder, and board members unanimously agreed.
Superintendent Charles Nagle admits rejecting the low bidder was a tough call, especially in lean times. But in the end, trustees did what taxpayers must expect them to do: use judgment.
Was it good judgment? We’ll see when the job is done – especially if it’s on time.