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|Sterlington aldermen defer to court in bid dispute|
The Sterlington Board of Aldermen spent a good bit of time Tuesday night listening to attorneys who represent two contractors in a disputed bid process.
Attorneys for Peck Construction and G. D. Womack Trenching were on hand at the board of aldermen's regular meeting to share with aldermen the reasons why their respective clients deserved to be awarded a $1.6-million contract to build a new wastewater treatment facility in the town.
That contract was awarded two weeks ago to G. D. Womack, after aldermen rejected the bid of Peck Construction for failing to follow bid guidelines.
Peck Construction sued the town of Sterlington in 4th Judicial District Court, claiming it was the low bidder and deserved the contract.
Peck's attorney, Tyler Storm of Ruston, said he did not want the aldermen to construe the lawsuit negatively or allow the lawsuit to cause a negative opinion of his client because a lawsuit is the only course of action rejected bidders have at their disposal.
"We of course want to work with you," Storm told aldermen. "Peck wants to work with you."
Storm said he understood the bid was rejected because Peck Construction only used digits when filling in the requested information. The bid instructions required all numbers to be spelled out, in addition to using digits.
Storm said he understood the requirement, but cited state law and court rulings, which would make the bid valid.
"The courts have held that the public is allowed to accept written numbers without the words," Storm said.
Baton Rouge attorney Trip Hawthorne spoke in defense of awarding the contract to G. D. Womack, saying his client was "the only responsive bidder."
"It's not even they left off the words to match the numbers," Hawthorne said. "They didn't match at all."
Hawthorne said in numerous instances Womack failed to match some written numbers to digits in the same blank.
That meant aldermen "wouldn't have known" what some of the responses were, according to Hawthorne.
After an executive session, aldermen unanimously approved a motion to allow the courts to determine which of the bids was the lowest and most responsive.
"All we are doing is letting the courts decide whether Mr. Peck's bid was responsive or not," said Sterlington Mayor Vern Breland, following the vote.
District Court Pro Temp Judge John Harrison is scheduled to hear the case Aug. 5.
In other business, aldermen unanimously approved awarding a contract to pave the parking lot of town hall to Amethyst Construction.
Breland said he expected construction of the $55,000 project to begin within "a couple of weeks."