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Morvin’s Landing contract awarded to KY firm

The Harrison County Parks Dept. awarded the contract for the Morvin’s Landing project during its Dec. 20 meeting, despite concerns from other bidders that Phillip Brothers, the low bidder, didn’t meet state requirements.
‘There’s a new law in effect this year,’ Chris Byrd, legal counsel for the parks department, said at the year-end meeting. ‘There is a process you have to go through to get certified.’
The law requires contractors to be certified by the state to do work in Indiana. However, it isn’t clear whether contractors have to be certified by the state at the time of bidding on projects.
Phillip Brothers, which is located in Vine Grove, Ky. and certified to do business there, was not certified prior to submitting its bid for the Morvin’s Landing project near Mauckport, which includes constructing a boat dock along the Ohio River. The firm’s bid was $976,000. The next closest bid, submitted by Temple & Temple Excavating of Salem, was for $1,174,245.46.
The bids, including those from three other companies, were opened during the parks board meeting on Dec. 12 and taken under advisement.
Byrd, who commented that, as a Kentucky business, Phillip Brothers might not have been familiar with the new requirement, said he called the state agency that handles the certification process and was not told that the company had to be certified prior to submitting a proposal.
‘It doesn’t mean you can’t award the bid, but they would have to be certified before any work commences,’ Byrd told the parks board.
He also said the state board meets about every 30 days and, to make the agenda for the January meeting, Phillip Brothers would need to make the request by Jan. 3. Additionally, the man Byrd spoke with said he could call an emergency meeting if necessary.
‘ … the way it was indicated to me today, is (the state) would be willing to bend over backward’ to get the Kentucky business certified, Byrd said. ‘It’s a pretty simple process.’
Byrd recommended the parks board award the bid to Phillip Brothers subject to the firm receiving certification from the state.
‘If (Phillip Brothers) want this job, it shouldn’t be hard to get this done,’ he said. ‘They just have to be certified before they begin the work.’
Parks board members asked about Phillip Brothers’ references, which were checked, and about comparable jobs.
County engineer Kevin Russel said he reached out to a couple of people in Kentucky, which gave Phillip Brothers good references.
Clifton Smith, with Phillip Brothers, said the company’s recent large project, at $13 million, was the Owensboro, Ky., hospital campus. It also has done work for the national park system and has worked in Indiana but not since July of 2017.
‘We asked at the pre-bid meeting if there were any pre-qualifications; we were told there wasn’t,’ Smith said.
‘Have you ever done a boat dock before?’ Teresa Sutton, a parks board member, asked.
‘We’ve done a job in the river before,’ Smith replied. ‘We’ve built dams.’
Jason Miller, an employee of Temple & Temple, said they brought up the prequalification issue.
‘I’m from Harrison County. My kids go to school here; we go to church here,’ he said. ‘I’d like to see (the contract) stay here.’
Miller asked the board to ‘respectfully’ look at the bid specifications and make sure they were correct before awarding the contract.
Robert Norrington, a property owner in Harrison County who was representing the labor union, also spoke. He said, despite the fact that neither Phillip Brothers nor Temple & Temple are union contractors, he was concerned about the tax dollars on the contract going to Kentucky instead of Indiana if Phillip Brothers was awarded the contract.
Smith said Phillip Brothers uses subcontractors from Indiana and purchases some materials in the Hoosier state.
After a brief recess to make copies of the statute regarding the new law, Larry Shickles, parks board president, said the contract needed to be awarded by Dec. 31 or the appropriations for the project would be lost.
‘We can’t encumber those funds if (the project) is not under contract,’ he said.
Byrd spoke again, saying, ‘No one really knows what the answer is’ regarding when a firm has to be certified other than prior to work commencing.
He added that the argument could be made that Morvin’s Landing isn’t a state project.
‘I think you’re playing with fire (if you expect to get something from the state by the end of the year),’ Byrd said. ‘You might as well move on to the next bidder … ‘
Parks board member Miranda Edge said, ‘I’m comfortable with (Phillip Brothers).’
She added she’d rather see the contract go to an Indiana company but that’s not who had the lowest bid.
Edge made a motion, seconded by Bill Watts, to award the contract to Phillip Brothers contingent upon the Kentucky firm receiving certification in Indiana by Jan. 15. The motion passed 6-0 (member Laurie Clark was absent).
‘It’s ironic that the last time Indiana and Kentucky had a big fight was at Morvin’s Landing,’ Shickles said.