Bid vote causes friction among BOE members

During the December Knox County School Board meeting, tensions rose as the topic of construction bids approached.

Ken Donnelly, Architect for Knox County Public Schools, informed the board that six bids were received for the upcoming construction on Lynn Camp Elementary. Donnelly focused on the two lowest bids, Olympic Construction and JBK Inc. Over $50,000 separated the lowest bidder, Olympic Construction, and the second lowest, JBK Inc. Donnelly said that he had checked the references of each, and both received excellent reviews and were considered qualified.

When it came time to choose, however, the board had mixed opinions. It was suggested to go with JBK, as they had just finished another project for the school system.

“I would like to table this issue,” said Board Member Charles Merida. “I would feel more comfortable to have Kim Merida, our facilities coordinator, look into Olympic’s past work and look for any issue.”

Before it could be tabled, Board Chairman Dexter Smith made a motion to, “give the bid to JBK for their fine work they’ve done in Knox County.”

The last to vote was Board Member Gordon Hinkle.

He said, “Before I vote I want to bring to attention that we’re talking about a difference of $58,000. That’s a lot of textbooks. That’s a teacher’s salary. That’s almost four teacher’s aids. I agree with what Mr. Merida said. I vote no.”

The vote passed two to three. The approval prompted Merida’s disdain.

“Don’t you want to support local business?” asked Board Member Merrill Smith.

“Yes, I do,” responded Merida, “but, I want to support all of them, not just one or two.”