LIVE OAK — Suwannee County is back looking for a contractor to finish work on the Mizell Building.

After a brief discussion at last week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, the board approved by a 4-1 vote to reject the lone bid the county received on work to install sheetrock on the Mizell Building and finish the work on the building to house the Supervisor of Elections office. Chairman Ricky Gamble voted against rejecting the bid.

“I just feel that once we open a bid, look at a bid, we shouldn’t re-bid it,” Gamble said. “That’s my stance on it.”

County Administrator Randy Harris, though, recommended that the board reject that lone bid, close to $20,000 from Riegel and Son Drywall, calling it “outrageous” and that he was “shocked” when he saw the number after the bid was opened.

Harris said he felt like the bid was $10,000 too high.

Gamble, while admitting the bid may have been higher than expected, didn’t think it was that high.

“That’s just a chance we take sometime when we go out to bid,” he said, reiterating that while it may cost the county additional money on this project, his biggest concern was the integrity of the bidding process.

“I want to maintain that (integrity),” Gamble added. “You put that particular contractor in a situation now where everyone knows their number and where they’re at.”

Len Stapleton, the District 4 commissioner, said if Harris, who has a background in construction, believed the bid was exorbitant, that should count for something.

Clyde Fleming, the District 2 commissioner, added that the board rejected a bid on a road contract in January, following a protest for irregularity in the bid process, and that worked out for the county.

“We’re in business,” Fleming said. “We want to be fair, but at the same time, we are in business.”

Ronnie Richardson, the commissioner from District 5, said he is able to collect prices from companies on projects at his house before deciding to reject them, so he should be able to for the county as well.

Harris added the county’s bid requests allow rejecting the bid for any reason, including the belief that the bid is just too high.

Assessments approved

The board also unanimously approved the assessment rates for fire protection and solid waste in the county for the next fiscal year.

There were no changes to the rates, which are $100 per dwelling unit for fire protection and $130 per dwelling unit for solid waste.

Turnpike on the horizon

The board also briefly discussed the future possibility of the Suncoast Connector in north Florida. Harris said his office had received a letter from Alachua County requesting the board make a comprehensive land use amendment opposing expressways or turnpikes as it recently did.

Don Hale, the District 1 commissioner and a member of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council’s board, said from discussions at that group’s meetings, all that is clear is Alachua is against the potential future road and Madison County is for it.

Harris said the Florida Department of Transportation has discussed the possibility of a road like that previously and while there are discussions underway again, there is no known timeline for when it would be constructed.

“If you travel the interstate anywhere near any holiday, it’s backed up bumper to bumper for miles,” Harris said, noting the letter from Alachua County stated the road would not serve a public purpose, which he said is just wrong. “Our population keeps growing and tourism continues to grow. The traffic has to go somewhere.”

Stapleton agreed that additional roads were necessary for the growing state population as well as the millions of tourists that visit annually.

“You’ve got two choices, it’s plain and simple,” he said. “You’re either going to build more roads because you have people moving in every day just like you build more houses or you have to be like the Jetsons and you’ve got to start flying around.”

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