Council nixes depot project

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Votes 3-2 to decline bids

In a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the Opp City Council rejected bids to rehabilitate the historic depot.

The city was awarded a $400,000 grant through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

The grant requires a 20 percent match from the city of Opp.

The plans called for installing a new roof, adding a bathroom and a kitchenette.

From the beginning, Opp Mayor John Bartholomew has said the facility would be used as a welcome center for the city, and that it would possibly house the Chamber of Commerce.

The project was delayed by the process of getting plans approved by multiple entities, including the building commission, DOT and more.

Plans also had to be sent to Washington, D.C., for approval as well.

In February, the city finally received the OK to solicit bids.

Contractors had until March 15 to submit bids. At last night’s meeting, council members learned that the bids were as follows:

• Southland Builders, $911,060.40;

• Diversified General Contractors, $847,871; and

• Wyatt Sasser Construction, $812,581, which DOT approved.

Council members Bobby Ray Owens, TD Morgan and Mary Brundidge voted against, while Arlin Davis and Mike Booth voted for it.

Morgan told the Star-News that he just couldn’t see using taxpayer money for the project

“I’m not going for using taxpayer money,” he said.

Mary Brundidge said she voted against it because of the timing.

“I voted against it because we had been working on that depot for two years and all of a sudden when it comes time to campaign again, this is brought up,” she said. “We got $400,000. I thought this was going to be an 80-20 split, but if we have to put $400,000 into it, that’s going to be half and half.”

Mayor John Bartholomew said Tuesday night, he was flabbergasted.

“We knew that the depot was going to cost $700,000 to $800,000,” he said. “I explained to the council that our $400,000 isn’t going to come at one time and that we could manage that into our budget.”

Bartholomew said he was speechless that the council would deny the $400,000 grant.

“Never again will we get this kind of grant money for this historical building,” he said.

Bartholomew said he and city planner Jason Bryan had hundreds of hours in this project and he feels like it will hurt the city’s chances of getting grants in the future.

“It’s going to hurt us,” he said. “As hard as Jason and I have worked on this. I don’t know what DOT is going to say.”

Bartholomew said there have been many moving pieces in this project.

“This is like someone ripping a child out of you,” he said. “We were doing this for the people – for our citizens, our taxpayers, the Chamber. It was going to be one of the centerpieces of our town.”

Bartholomew called it a sad day in Opp.