Bids may have left out local businesses
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The Madison County Record
Ellen Kreth

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have seen how important it is to shop local, to support our local businesses and our community. We have seen some of our small businesses struggle and we have seen our community do what they can financially to support them.

Last year, our county came together to support an increase in the school millage, which is being used to build two new Career and Technical Education buildings, install new heat and air systems in the Charles H. Berry Gym in Huntsville and the St. Paul gym, and construct a new activity center in Huntsville.

At Monday night’s regular school board meeting, Phil Jones of C.R. Crawford Construction, the construction manager of the projects, informed the board that the invitation to bid on the CTE buildings was published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 19 and April 26. Nothing was posted on the schools’ website nor was a notice published in the Madison County Record. So, local residents who do not subscribe to the statewide newspaper, which costs $34 a month compared to The Record’s cost of $39 per year, did not have a chance to see the invitation to bid. The bids for the project were due May 5. As it stands now, no other bids will be taken. The Record’s publication of an invitation to bid costs less than those in newspapers in surroundings areas, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

At the meeting, Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas asked Jones if the company had received many local bids, and Jones couldn’t answer the question. But, he said 160 bids had been received. He also said he had reached out to companies to let them know about the project. The Record has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a list of those bids so we can see how many local businesses submitted a bid on the projects. We’ve also asked for a list of all the local companies that C.R. Crawford reached out to.

Interim Superintendent Audra Kimball stated that the board made a public announcement at April’s board meeting informing the public that the district would be initiating the bid process and she noted that it was published in The Record “that the district had received final approval for the two CTE buildings and bids would be advertised in the following Sunday’s statewide newspaper. Also, it stated that after a two-week bid process the board would need a special meeting to approve the bids which will take place later this week.”

Kimball also noted, “It was also circulated via email to local, regional, and statewide contractors via Grade Beam, a software used to communicate the bid process.”

We were happy to help spread the message about the process in our reporting and have actively covered every school board meeting and reported on the construction projects. We believe that by publishing the official invitation to bid in a local paper and posting it on the school board’s web site would have given local businesses an opportunity to be a part of the process and hopefully earn some of the work.

We want to see as many local businesses and local people put to work on building the CTE buildings and the new activity center. Local businesses are the ones who support the schools. Look around the football field on a Friday night. Whose banner is hung on the fence in support of the football team? Businesses pay for those banners year after year. What businesses usually pick up the cost of dinner for the football teams and basketball teams? Whose names do you see around the gyms supporting the booster clubs? What businesses are supportive of band competition and quiz bowl teams? Local businesses are always supportive of the Record’s sports page, highlighting each week’s sport competitions. In this week’s paper, you’ll see our annual Huntsville, St. Paul and Kingston High School Senior Section. Look at the names of those sponsors: they’re local businesses and family farms who have shown support to the school for many years. Local businesses are the ones who support your community and your schools.

The board has planned for a special meeting this week in order to look over the bids that were submitted to C.R. Crawford. We’re hopeful that local businesses submitted a bid and are given a fair shot at earning work on the project. We believe in supporting our local businesses, especially during this uncertain time.

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