After three years of back-and-forth with South Carolina Department of Transportation, the city of North Augusta is making progress on the Knobcone Avenue sidewalk that will connect Paul Knox Middle School and North Augusta High School.
City council awarded a nearly $460,000 contract to Aiken-based J.D. Gaskins, which will oversee the project as general contractor.
Additional construction-related needs are expected to bring the total project cost to $535,625. SCDOT is funding just over $403,260 (75% ), with North Augusta paying the rest.
But the council’s 6-0 vote Dec. 20 to award the contract to J.D. Gaskins raised the question: Should a council member be allowed to bid a project?
J.D. Gaskins’ chosen subcontractor is SITEC Construction, owned by North Augusta councilman David McGhee. McGhee recused himself from Monday’s vote, citing this association.
City attorney Kelly Zier confirmed that existing law permits a council member to contract with the city if that contract is awarded based on the city’s usual purchasing procedure, is the lowest bid and then is awarded by unanimous vote rather than the majority vote that is normally required.
The city posted an RFP for the Knobcone Avenue sidewalk project to its website Oct. 18 and received two sealed bids by the Nov. 8 deadline.
“This is a sealed, low-bid process,” said Jim Clifford, North Augusta city administrator. “So, there is no negotiations or discussions or panel discussions amongst city staff about the award of said contract.”
But, said councilwoman Pat Carpenter, “I do not think anybody on this council should [bid] a project that money’s being paid, that’s my personal opinion."
Carpenter said she has nothing against McGhee and that her vote in support of the contract Monday was because current law permits council members to bid and the proper procedure was followed. But, she said, “that should not be. And I’m asking that after the first of the year, this maybe be brought back to council and us discuss on things that we put out for bid."
Councilman Bob Brooks said he, too, is open to reviewing North Augusta’s current policy for elected officials bidding a project.
But councilman Eric Presnell said the law already covers when a council member is financially associated with a project.
“That’s why we recuse ourselves,” he said.
Work on Greeneway connector close to starting
In a separate action Monday, City Council authorized nearly $2 million in funding for roadway improvements and the first section in the Greeneway downtown connector.
That funding, coming out of Capital Sales Tax IV, supports the largest chunk of a $2.3 million to $2.5 million project.
The connector will run from Hammonds Ferry up Bluff Avenue to Center Street and eventually will be integrated with the alley system .
Lexington-based AOS Specialty Contractors submitted the low bid of $1,999,645 on Dec. 1.
Officials said that work will start sometime in 2023.