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Contractor fights for water project

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2011

A local contractor recently stripped of a county water utility project now must prove himself capable of working on another.

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Jeffery Harris, owner of Harris Trucking, lost a contract last month on a stormwater improvement project at the Wynngate tributary when he failed to turn in required documents even with an extended deadline.

Harris recently proffered the lowest bid on a project to widen culverts in the Springlakes subdivision, but Columbia County officials were wary last week to immediately award him the contract. Commissioners intend to discuss his bid during a Tuesday meeting.

"The issue this time is that in some of the background information we got on him we didn't get the best recommendations for his company as far as a their ability to perform a job of that magnitude," said county Water Utility Director Bill Clayton.

In fact, during a meeting last week of the Public Works Committee, project engineer W.R. Toole Engineers recommended that commissioners accept a more than $1 million bid submitted by Bean Construction even though it is about $200,000 more than the one turned in by Harris.

Harris told commissioners that he is a licensed utility contractor with 20 years experience.

"We're more than qualified to do the job," he said. "It's a fairly easy job."

Reluctant to subvert the bidding process, commission Chairman Ron Cross asked Clayton and the project engineer to meet with Harris to discuss the project and then make a recommendation Tuesday.

"We're setting up a meeting with him where he can quantify his plan of attack on this job," Clayton said.

The project already is unpopular with many Springlakes residents.

Following heavy rains, homes upstream of Springlakes on Reed Creek often flood. By widening the culverts and parts of the creek, officials hope to increase the flow velocity of the stream to prevent flooding.

Commissioner Trey Allen, a Springlakes resident, said some of his neighbors have complained that the construction will ruin the aesthetics of their neighborhood.

Allen said he disagrees, and that county workers will replant trees and shrubbery following construction.

"Those are minor inconveniences to being a good neighbor (to those living upstream)," he said.

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