Photo by Heather Middleton
By M.J. Subiria Arauz
Construction of the Joe Murphy Public Safety Building in Lovejoy was not done through a competitive-bid process, nor was a general contractor used, said Keith Martin, attorney for the city.
Martin said that on a public-works project, any job over $100,000 requires a competitive-bidding process. In this case, however, the jobs for the construction of the building were all under $100,000, [and no general contractor was used], so competitive bidding was not required, according to Martin.
"The normal procedure is to hire a general contractor to do what we did," added Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy. "By skipping that process, we wouldn't have to pay ... the overhead that he would charge above and beyond trade."
Murphy said that, as a result, taxpayers saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, because the city didn't hire a general contractor. Martin agreed with Murphy, and said the city saved 10, to 15 percent by acting as its own general contractor.
The attorney said Murphy was heavily involved in the construction of the building, and wanted to ensure that the city was getting its money's worth. The mayor has construction expertise, and holds several building-trades-related licenses.
"He got an 18,000-square-foot building for $110 a square foot," said Martin.
Mayor Murphy explained that the city collected estimated costs from professionals of different trades, such as carpentry, roofing, electrical, and HVAC. The city gathered those estimates and figured an approximate cost for the construction of the building, which houses city hall, administrative offices and the Lovejoy Police Department. The building opened in March 2010, Murphy said.
"We knew the estimated cost of what the building was going to be, before we ever started construction," said the mayor.
Murphy said Lewayne "Bo" Davis was hired by the city council to be the project superintendent. Davis, now deceased, was the stepbrother of Bobby Cartwright, a Lovejoy councilman, according to Martin.
He said the council interviewed three candidates for the position, which included Davis. Davis was the most qualified, because he had worked with large construction companies, and had experience with the type of construction that was to take place. "It is just a coincidence that he [was] a stepbrother of a councilmember," Mayor Murphy insisted.
"The scope of the work Mr. Davis had done in the past, was more on the guidelines on the type of work we were going to do," he added.
Martin said the city paid $5,500 to C&C Lovejoy, a firm of Councilman Cartwright's, to install 500 feet of vinyl fencing, six feet in height.
"Bobby [Cartwright] personally did not profit," said Martin. "He did it because he could, and because it helped the city [financially]."
Cartwright was contacted and declined to comment on the matter.
Murphy said he doesn't understand why this is a big deal. These topics were mentioned in past city council meetings, before the construction of the public safety building took place, he said. "I can show them [people] past records of minutes of past meetings, where it was all discussed," he said. "We feel we did everything we could possibly do."
Murphy said Martin was contacted to assure that Lovejoy was operating in a legal matter. Meetings were conducted between the attorney, and city council members, he said.
"He assured that it was perfectly legal," he added. "I don't know what the big deal of it is."
Murphy said the building was under construction for 14 months.
Hampton resident, Dale Millican, said he lives in unincorporated Clayton County. He said this is the first time he has heard of these scenarios. "I don't know that a lot of people [in Lovejoy and Hampton] have heard about it," said Millican.
Murphy said he is satisfied with how everything was handled for the construction of the public safety building. "This may be politically insinuated," said Murphy, about why this topic was brought to light. "I think we did a really good job with everything, and saved taxpayers' money."