– Gulfport – www.sunherald.com: www.sunherald.com/2011/09/03/3398582/port-must-sta….html

GULFPORT — W.C. Fore Trucking Inc. is protesting the state Port Commission’s decision to pass him over as the low bidder on a multimillion-dollar contract. The project is to dredge the last 24 acres the port plans to fill as part of Katrina restoration and expansion.

The port received $570 million in federal funding for the port projects. The commission approved a $6.7 million contract with Matthews Marine Inc. of Pass Christian, finding the company was the lowest and best bidder to dredge the acreage and deposit the spoils on Deer Island. Fore’s bid was $628,000 lower than the one submitted by Matthews, the second-lowest bidder.
“Just because it’s federal money, you don’t have to play fast and loose with it,” said Gulfport attorney Jim Wetzel, who represents Fore.”Whether it’s federal money or state money, it all comes out of our pocket.”

Wetzel filed a protest on Fore’s behalf with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees state contracts and purchasing. DFA had planned to grant Fore a hearing, Executive Director Kevin Upchurch said Friday, but then discovered a more fundamental problem. The port failed to secure approval for the Matthews Marine contract from DFA’s procurement board — a requirement when the contract amount exceeds $5 million.

Upchurch notified the port in August the contract would have to be cancelled. The Mississippi Development Authority, which receives and distributes the federal Katrina money, also must approve the port contracts. In this case, MDA refused, saying the bids should be re-evaluated and scored based on qualification factors. The Port Commission re-evaluated the bids, once again awarding Matthews the contract Aug. 24.

Port staff members are now reviewing the evaluation process to make sure it was properly handled, the port’s executive director, Don Allee, said Friday. He said he could not discuss the bids because the contract has not been finalized.
“We think this will get resolved with all questions answered pretty shortly,” Allee said.

Upchurch, who also chairs the procurement board, has reiterated DFA’s position to the port.”It was not handled properly,” he said.”If I tell them to cancel what they’ve done, they have no option but to rebid it.”

Upchurch also told the Sun Herald:”I have gone back on record to make our position clear. That (re-evaluation) is not acceptable. They should cease and desist. It’s over. I was told yesterday they were honoring that and were going back through the process, as they were instructed yesterday. I think they realize they have to cancel what they’ve done and start over. It will be as if nothing’s happened.”

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