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City of Meridian prevails in water tower dispute

By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
Sept. 13, 2001
Circuit Judge Larry Roberts has affirmed the Meridian City Council's decision to award the contract for a million-gallon water tower to Caldwell Tanks.
The judgment was filed Wednesday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
The dispute over the tower, designed to alleviate water pressure problems in North Meridian, began as soon as the contract was awarded in May of this year.
The lowest of the four bids, submitted by Caldwell Tanks, was $1.261 million. The next-highest bidder, Landmark Structures, claimed Caldwell had ignored the bid specifications allowing them to gain a $52,000 edge on the competition.
The difference in the two bids lies in how the concrete will be cast. The water tower design calls for a million-gallon steel tank supported by a 100-foot concrete cylinder.
The city's bid specifications called for the cylinder's ring-shaped components to be cast in 6- to 12-foot sections. Caldwell proposed to cast the rings in 4-foot sections eliminating the need for special handling and saving money.
Landmark officials said Caldwell's bid should be thrown out because it deviated from the design specifications. Unable to sway city officials, Landmark appealed to Judge Roberts in June.
The judge met with attorneys for the city of Meridian, Landmark Structures and Caldwell Tanks in July, and has since reviewed written statements from both sides.
City attorney Bill Hammack has maintained since the beginning of the dispute that a disclaimer included in the Notice to Bidders clearly states the council's right to accept Caldwell's bid:
The judge agreed, citing state law that states deviation from bid specifications is permissible as long as it does not adversely affect the price, time or changes in the work.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at smonk@themeridianstar.com.

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