JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Washington County Commission will have to start from square one on the construction of a sports complex at the new Boones Creek Pre K – 8 school.
The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office stepped in to advise the county after a previous vote was determined to be in violation of a state law requiring competitive bidding.
According to the law, any project with a price tag exceeding $10 thousand must be advertised, giving contractors ample opportunity to make a bid to the county.
The proposed sports complex, which will include fields for softball, baseball, football and soccer, is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, though it’s not to exceed $800 thousand.
“I voted against spending $800 thousand of taxpayer money because there were no competitive bids taken,” said Commissioner Kent Harris.
Harris and a handful of other commissioners opposed a resolution, approved by a majority last month, that would’ve allowed Burwil Construction to finish the fields under its current contract.
Harris said that contract only allowed Burwil to build the school, not the sports complex.
He said the fields are a separate project and therefore require a separate, competitive bid.
“We shouldn’t be picking favorites to give big jobs like that. It ought to be done right, which in turn will hopefully drive the costs down and save money for the taxpayers,” said Harris.
Harris raised concerns that the original plan was the product of a conflict of interest.
“I don’t think the majority would’ve voted in favor of this had it not been for the mayor speaking up and saying it could be done,” he said.
Public records show, since 2018, Mayor Joe Grandy has received about $3 thousand in campaign contributions from leadership at Summers Taylor, Inc, a contractor currently working with Burwil Construction on the new school.
Grandy insisted his original position was based on the advice of a school representative, not the influence of a company.
“The committee was advised by the school’s representative that a change order would save money on this project and that’s why they considered it that way,” said Grandy. “Once I got into looking at the contract details, there was no provision in the original contract that allowed for this type of a change order.”
An auditor from the Comptroller’s Office confirmed to Purchasing Director Willie Shrewsbury that the original resolution was in conflict with state law.
Grandy said, now, a competitive bid is the only option.
He said he expects the bidding to wrap up by early August.