GULFPORT — W.C. Fore Trucking Inc. is protesting the state Port Commissions 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. Fores bid was $628,000 lower than the one submitted by Matthews, the second-lowest bidder.
“Just because its federal money, you dont have to play fast and loose with it, said Gulfport attorney Jim Wetzel, who represents Fore.”Whether its federal money or state money, it all comes out of our pocket.
Wetzel filed a protest on Fores 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 DFAs 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 ports 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 DFAs position to the port.”It was not handled properly, he said.”If I tell them to cancel what theyve 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. Its 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 theyve done and start over. It will be as if nothings happened.