Commission makes decision on water contract controversy

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Commissioners moved forward with a water contract Tuesday, a month after a local businessman filed for an injunction to stop the contract from going to a competitor.

The unanimous vote affirmed last month's recommendation to award to Cleveland Electric a design-build contract to provide standby generator systems for the county's two water production plants at Lanier Filter Plant and Shoal Creek Filter Plant.

Cleveland Electric, a Marietta-based business, was the highest-scoring firm in the bid process. But Mark Tibbetts of the Suwanee office of M.C. Dean objected that Cleveland's bid of $16.9 million was well over the $15.8 million budget for the project.

Tibbetts' company was one of 10 bidders for the work. County officials said the top four scoring firms were short-listed based on technical merit before the price was considered.

After receiving information from an open records request, he said three of the four were above the budget.

"I feel like I'm the only one that cares," about keeping in line with the budget, he said, adding that he sent his engineers back to the drawing board when they came back with a proposal over the budget. The final proposal, he said, lacked in technical merit because of cuts made to meet that goal. Other companies, "realize they don't have to pay attention to the budget and still be considered. ... The county is going to spend $1.1 million more than they have to."

County officials have not discussed the issue due to the lawsuit, and commissioners approved the contract with no comments.

Tibbetts said he has not decided if he will pursue the lawsuit further.

"I may not have had a winning proposal, but I am disappointed in the way this procurement process went down," he said.