By Paul Gable
The process for bidding for work at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) appears to have serious flaws with respect to how public dollars are spent.
The flaws became apparent during a workshop held Thursday November 20, 2014 to discuss why approval of a change order in the amount of $395,000 was justified for current work on the East Hill Fill Closure Project.
When an RFQ for a project at the HCSWA is publicized requesting bids, authority contract engineer Vance Moore told the board, the specifications in the RFQ for scope of work and material needed are only estimates.
The HCSWA sets an overall budgeted amount for the project. RFQ specifications are produced by Moore and contractors bid on completing the scope of work for the project, but, the bid price really doesn’t mean anything as long as the contractor completes the project within the budgeted amount.
Moore, who is reportedly receiving $500,000 from the HCSWA to oversee this project, was seriously off on his projections of the amount of material needed for the project. In one item, he estimated 10,000 cubic yards of material would be needed, a number that is now up to 40,000 cubic yards and possibly still growing.
“It’s not what you bid it for, it’s what you bring it home for. That’s what counts,” Moore said. “You will pay them (contractor) the unit price for the quantity they actually install.”
As HCSWA board member Pam Creech said at the meeting, the bid process is flawed. If a contractor submits a bid knowing it is being treated only as an estimate of cost of the project, not the number he is expected to complete the work for, it opens up all sorts of variables, including potential corruption.
As she correctly stated, there is nothing stopping a bidder from submitting a lowball bid knowing change orders will be automatically approved and the HCSWA budgeted amount is the real top price for a project.
For the East Hill Fill Closure Project, the HCSWA budgeted $7,750,000. The low bid was $6,680,525.67 by King Construction. King also added a clause that a reduction of $336,160 was possible if the HCSWA allowed it to store some material on HCSWA property. The agreement was worked out and the final King bid was $6,344,365.67.
However, the additional $395,000 from the change order is now added to that total and no one knows what the final price will be until all work is completed and a final reconciliation is calculated.
The mood of the workshop was nobody is at fault, these things just happen.
And who cares, it isn’t their money. It’s taxpayer dollars that are being wasted through this very casual and flawed procedure which awards contracts for work whose scope is not really known and whose material requirements are, evidently, indeterminate.
Or, as a man of my acquaintance who has spent the last 43 years as a licensed professional civil engineer said, “This is a very unprofessional and unsophisticated way of doing business. Somebody, somewhere, should have some idea how much material was required for this project within reasonable parameters.”