The winning bid was submitted by contractor Andrew Paduch. It was the lowest of three widely ranging bids submitted on the project.
Aldermen Roger Cooper said differences in the project’s written specifications that did not spell out any requests for electrical wiring, plumbing or gas lines, and project sketches that did include some utilities, seemed to have caused confusion among the contractors who submitted proposals.
Paduch told the board his proposal, which came in more than $35,000 less than the next highest bidder’s, was for the construction of a prefabricated metal building on a six-inch concrete slab with two vehicle entrance doors.
Paduch said that while the project specifications did not spell out any provisions for electricity, he had added some wiring based on a verbal request from former Town Recorder Mike Housewright and his own knowledge of what would be needed.
During a discussion of the wide range in the bid submitted for the metal building and the possibility of re-advertising the project for a wood-post building, interim Town Recorder Larry Rea said he had not spoken to any of the contractors who submitted bids but had spoken with an engineer who told him “the bids were so spread out he would not go with any of them.”
Rea told the board that based on that conversation, his recommendation was to re-advertise the project for bids.
When asked how long it would take him to complete the metal building, Paduch said he would attempt to have the building completed by Christmas or in up to 60 days, depending on the weather.
Paduch also offered to work with the town to include the needed water, sewer and other utilities.
Cooper made the motion to approve Paduch’s offer as a base bid after expressing his preference for a metal building. Aldermen Kathy Bullen seconded the motion after noting a re-advertisement for bids would delay the project. The board approved the bid by a unanimous vote.
In his first report to the board as interim town recorder, Rea, who retired from the recorder’s position in June 2016, told the board he would be serving an interim recorder two days a week until a new recorder is hired to replace Housewright.
He said the town has so far received resumes from 13 applicants for the position and would continue accepting applications through the end of the month.
In other business, Rea told the board the town had recently completed its purchase of a 1.73-acre tract of land on Unicoi Village Place located between the Unicoi Tourist Information and Visitors Center and the town-owned Mountain Harvest Kitchen and had also received a court award of a small tract of property at the dead end of Wigand Road requested for the continued maintenance of a culvert.
Park and Recreation Director Sarah Jennings, who like Housewright recently accepted a similar job in a larger town, told the board Monday would be her last Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting in Unicoi. Rea said the town will begin advertising for a replacement for Jennings next week.
In updates on the Tuesday night fire that destroyed the town’s most popular restaurant, Clarence’s Drive-In, Mayor Johnny Lynch said he had learned from the owner of a vacant restaurant located across Unicoi Drive from Town Hall that Clarence’s may reopen at that location as early as next week.
Bullen said RISE Erwin will host a benefit auction and raffle to help the workers who were left unemployed by the fire at Clarence’s on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Bramble on Gay Street in downtown Erwin. She said the group is still accepting donations for the auction and asked anyone who would like to donate an auction item to contact them at the RISE Erwin page on Facebook. Donations for the Clarence’s workers may also be made at Clinchfield Credit Union, she said.
According to Bullen, insurance coverage to replace the restaurant is being provided by the paving company that caused the fire in prep work done in advance of paving that has been scheduled at Clarence’s the following day.
The Clarence’s fire also sparked criticism of the town for failing to invest more in fire protection.
In the citizen comments section of the meeting, Unicoi resident Deborah Perry said the fire “should be a wake-up call for all of Unicoi.”
“Much money has been spent on for things that do not bring revenue to the town, but cost the town. This money for pet projects could have been spent for a fire department staff of full-time firefighters,” Perry said.
When Hopson noted volunteer firefighters had done a good job protecting neighboring properties, Perry said she did not say they hadn’t.
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