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LCDA weighs hiring local vs. minorities
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The Liberty County Development Authority on Monday authorized a transfer of its engineering services to P.C. Simonton and Associates, but the vote was preceded by long discussion about the authority’s policy on minority- and women-owned businesses.

Board member Al Williams prompted discussion by saying the policy, which aims to level the playing field for minority- and women-owned businesses, was breached during the procurement process of the engineering proposals.

LCDA Administration and Finance Director Carmen Cole and Strategic Business Solutions consultant DeLisa Espada both explained that because the scope of work being solicited was broad, it was hard for each agency to quantify minority and disadvantaged participation in the proposals.

Board members discussed the matter for about 40 minutes before Chairman Allen Brown moved the meeting forward, with Williams still unhappy with the “spirit that was involved here.”

“I think we’ve finished discussing the issue — we’ve killed it,” Brown said. “If there is a change, we need to go back and look at our policy, but my feeling is that we’ve got a good explanation of what’s taken place.”

The board discussed other old business before moving to the action items to approve the engineering proposals.

The authority received seven proposals, but two were disqualified for not responding to the terms of the bid request. The remaining five were scored, including a 10-point advantage for local businesses. Simonton received the highest score.

T.R. Long Engineering, the firm employed by Liberty County, was second highest. 

Third place was Savannah-based Thomas & Hutton Engineering, a firm the LCDA has engaged since 2000 on an ongoing basis until cancellation.

In previous meetings, board members have voiced opposition to Thomas & Hutton’s responses, previous engineering work and price.

Brown, Robert Stokes, Brian Smith, John McIver and Paul Krebs voted to approve the P.C. Simonton proposal. Williams opposed, though he noted that his opposition was not to the company but to the procurement process overall.

In a brief talk about the ongoing water/sewer dispute with the city of Midway, the board voted to pay outstanding fees for sewer services at Tradeport East in a good-faith effort to settle the dispute.

The amount owed is $65,984, and the authority has not written a check for the services since 2009, Cole said. The dispute has been running since 2006, with each entity owing money to the other.

The LCDA also adopted a $6.415 million budget for fiscal year 2013 as presented, with a provision that staff receive no wage adjustments until a committee reassesses the benefit package the authority will offer.

The provision was a result of Krebs’ opposition to covering employee benefits at 100 percent and allowing a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 2 percent merit raise.

After discussing what other entities and private businesses have done with their wages, secretary Brian Smith suggested that the board still appropriate the funds and reassess before determining whether to authorize the raises.

LCDA CEO Ron Tolley said COLA raises have been the norm for the authority’s staff, while McIver noted that Liberty County just approved its first COLA raise, at 2.5 percent, in five years.

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