Hurricane Zeta storm debris cleanup in George County may have hit another roadblock last week. On Wednesday, June 16, attorney Samuel C Kelly, declared the intention of Holliday Construction, LLC to appeal Judge Kathy Jackson’s May 18th ruling. In that ruling, Judge Jackson said the county could reject all bids for debris removal and readvertise for new bids. She further said no relief or award was due to Holliday Construction, LLC. Kelly, on behalf of Holliday, filed an Appellant’s Statement of Issues on Wednesday, June 16. Boiled down, the Statement claims Judge Jackson erred in not awarding Holliday damages for lost profits. Holliday Construction LLC did win a Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) contract to pick up debris along state highways in George County, including Hwy. 26 and Hwy. 198. That work was to have begun in February and still is not complete. Piles of storm debris within Lucedale city limits, for example, along Hwy. 198 W, are part of that Holliday/MDOT contract.
The County advertised and opened bids for debris removal along county highways in early December. The lowest bid, $1,686,613, was submitted by Custom Tree Care LLC, based in Kansas City, Kansas. CTC has successfully worked with FEMA in the past and operates in several states performing disaster cleanup work. Appearing to be the lowest and best bid, the supervisors awarded the contract to CTC.
The second lowest bidder, Holliday Construction LLC, of Poplarville, with a bid of $2,352,050.00 immediately filed a complaint claiming CTC was not a qualified bidder because the Kansas company does not hold a Mississippi commercial contractor’s license issued by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors. The license is also known as a Certificate of Responsibility.
Commercial construction of $50,000 or more requires the contractor be licensed by the state Board of Contractors.
Upon the advice of their attorney, the supervisors disregarded Holliday’s complaint on the basis storm debris cleanup is not “construction.”
Holliday filed suit, prompting the court to issue a stay order.
Subsequently, the Court required the County request an opinion from the Contractors Board on the Certificate of Responsibility issue. That opinion was that it was required.
Debris With that Judge Jackson threw out all previous bids, gave no monetary award to Holliday, lifted the stay order, and allowed the County to seek new bids for the remaining work.
The original deadline for the removal of all debris, to qualify for FEMA and MEMA funding, was June 30. FEMA has agreed to extend that deadline until the end of the year. Similarly, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) extended the deadlines for debris site processing 90 days. That was nearly 30 days ago.
One issue for the County is the volume of debris and compliance with MDEQ disposal regulations. The initial FEMA estimates were 150,000 cubic yards of debris. By the time Judge Jackson issued her stay order in early February Custom Tree Care LLC had already picked up 217,000 cubic yards of debris material. At that point, the job was considered less than half done.
Disposing of that much material costs millions of dollars. If the county complies with FEMA guidelines, FEMA and MEMA will reimburse the county for most of that cost. Regardless the final amount of material picked up, FEMA will reimburse the county for 75 percent of the cost and MEMA will reimburse an additional 12.5 percent. The remainder comes out of county coffers. Noncompliance means county taxpayers could be stuck paying the entire bill.
At this point it is unknown when the state Supreme Court will hear the case and what effect the appeal will have on picking up the remaining debris.