Builder May Sue Miss. Co. Over Jail Project
(06/21/2011)

HERNANDO, Miss. — The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors recently rejected the two lowest bidders for the Desoto County Jail project, citing the bidders’ failure to meet experience requirements.

The board selected the third-lowest bidder – Oklahoma-based Flintco – with a bid of $13.8 million. The construction cost of the new jail, which is going up south of Hernando, is projected at $16 million.

The lower bids among the seven opened on May 12 were rejected: a $13.7 million bid from Panola Construction of Mississippi and a $13.6 million bid from Murphy & Sons, also of Mississippi.

Flintco operates a Memphis office; DeSoto County is part of the Metropolitan Memphis Statistical Area.

Having completed work on the Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, Miss., the Memphis International Airport ground transportation center and air traffic control tower, and numerous jails, Flintco possesses a prestigious reputation in the area.

Murphy & Sons, which has built several schools in DeSoto County, said it will sue over what it deems “an arbitrary and capricious” specification requiring bidders to have built at least two jails costing $8 million or more within the past five years.

Consultants and county officials, including procurement director Vanessa Lynchard and Supervisor Bill Russell, a member of the jail planning committee, said the requirements were sensible and within DeSoto’s rights, and changing them now would be unfair and engender lawsuits from contractors who refrained from bidding based on the jail experience specification.

Murphy lists $60 million in recent DeSoto school projects, but officials say they want to contract with a firm that specifically possesses jail construction experience.

Flintco lists two jail projects in its portfolio, including the Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, Miss. Flintco’s bid for the DeSoto jail met all the other guidelines.

Design consultant Michael Childress, a partner in the Evans Taylor Foster Childress firm of Memphis, said the firm did not receive any questions on jail experience from Murphy in the weeks between advertising and the deadline for questions seven days ahead of bid opening.

Murphy claims the guidelines excluded local builders and raised the cost of the project for taxpayers.

A contract has been sent to Flintco for review, according to the county. Once the supervisors approve the minutes of their last meeting at their next meeting, the contract will become official.

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