Oxford approves bids to build two new fire stations
by Eddie Burkhalter
Feb 25, 2014 | 6922 views |  0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD – Oxford has taken another step toward construction of two fire stations, which will boost the city’s firefighter training capabilities and increase the fire coverage area, city officials said Tuesday.

The council approved at Tuesday’s regular meeting a $2 million bid to Anniston-based J.F. Morgan General Contractor to build the two fire stations.

A new station in Bynum, to be located at the intersection of U.S. 78 and Bynum Cutoff Road, will replace the existing station which sits farther east on U.S. 78.

The move will expand the fire protection coverage area of homes in the Bynum area that are within city limits but are more than 5 miles from the old station, according to Oxford fire Chief Gary Sparks.

The Bynum station will have living quarters, and will be staffed with two firefighters, who’ve already been hired, Sparks said.

Another, unmanned station will be on the same property with the city garage on U.S. 78. That station will have three fire truck bays and a large training room. Future plans also call for a live-fire training tower there.

Currently, Oxford firefighters train wherever they can, Sparks said, often using Anniston’s fire training tower.

“We’ve just had to make do with what we’ve got, which isn’t much,” Sparks said. “Having this tower will let us conduct more training classes than we’ve been able to in the past.”

Work could begin as early as next week, Sparks said, and is under contract to be completed in July.

In another matter, the representative of a golf course irrigation equipment company called into question the city’s bidding process for new irrigation water heads at the Cider Ridge Golf Course. The city budgeted $98,000 this year to replace aging water heads on the city-owned golf course.

Brian Burns, regional sales manager for the Keeling Company, said his company had the lowest bid both times his company submitted proposals. At a Dec. 10 council meeting, opened bids showed that the Keeling Company submitted a bid of $58,540 while Pelham-based Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation submitted a bid of $67,455.

Chad Robinson, golf course superintendent at Cider Ridge, said at that December meeting that Keeling’s water heads, made by Rain Bird, did not meet the specifications as required in the bid. Jerry Pate Irrigation’s proposal included water heads made by Toro, which Robinson said did meet those specifications.

City attorney Bruce Rice told the council at that meeting that he would like to look closer at the details of the bid specifications before the council voted to approve the bid.

Council members at a Dec. 24 meeting voted down a resolution to buy the equipment from Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation. Rice said at that meeting that there were errors in the initial bidding process that needed to be corrected by Cider Ridge before the council could vote to approve the project.

The project was then put out for bids again, and Keeling Company’s bid, submitted Feb. 20, came in $12,748 lower than Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation.

“It’s been a set up deal. It was set up a year or so ago,” Burns said by phone Tuesday. “The superintendent at the golf course wants a particular product. Well, the taxpayers are going to pay $13,000 more for that particular product.”

During a work session prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, Jim Durrell, director of grounds for Honours Golf, which manages Cider Ridge, said it comes down to quality and to familiarity.

“(Rain Bird) is a good product, but we, in our experience, have experienced more problems with the Rain Bird than with Toro,” Durrell said. Durrell said the golf course started renovations previously and used Toro water heads.

“We started the project with Toro heads, and we’d like to continue with them,” Durrell “It’s not specification-related. It’s more ease of management-related.”

Durrell went on to name several differences in the two heads, from stainless steel parts in the Toro compared to plastic used in Rain Bird heads.

“It may cost a little bit more money, but down the road it’s going to be a lot better for us,” Robinson said.

Burns answered, reading from a written statement, saying “Keeling Company has competitive bid this project twice, and both time we saved the taxpayers money.”

Burns explained he believes it has less to do with product of his quality and more to do with the city’s flawed bidding process.

Council President Steven Waits asked Robinson if he is confident that the extra $13,000 is worth the investment, and Robinson said yes.

“It seems like a question of preference,” said Councilman Mike Henderson.

“If it’s preference over specifications, why did we bid it?” asked Councilman Phil Gardner.

During the regular meeting Tuesday, the council voted to award Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation $67,350 for irrigation equipment at Cider Ridge, with Councilman Mike Henderson voting no.

In other business, the council:

— Approved several appropriations to area nonprofits and aid organizations. Among them were $23,000 to the Calhoun County Health Department, $40,000 to the Calhoun-Cleburne County Mental Health Center and $1,500 to Calhoun County Civil Defense.

The city had budgeted $24,000 for Coosa Valley Youth Services, but after discovering that the agency supports a large number of Oxford residents, the agency requested additional funds from the city.

Council members discussed Tuesday paying the agency’s requested amount of $42,000. Several council members seemed opposed to raising the appropriation, but Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard asked that the resolution be tabled to give council members time to consider doing so. The council tabled the resolution.

— Approved a contract with Arts Venues Management LLC for $4,750 monthly to provide consulting service for the Oxford Performing Arts Center for a two-month period.

— Agreed to pay The Anniston Star $1,500 for an advertisement in a magazine showcasing Oxford.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for March 18 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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