Stanly school board chooses company other than lowest bidder for Endy project

At the March meeting of the Stanly County Board of Education, the board chose a bid for the Endy Elementary School addition which is $261,000 higher than the lowest bid. (Note: An earlier version of this story reported it was more than $300,000.)

Before the meeting, the facilities committee met and discussed the bids, according to board member Robin Whitaker.

According to information obtained by The Stanly News & Press, HM Kern was the lowest of seven bids submitted Feb. 29, at a total of $3.848 million. Other bids included JM Cope ($3.982 million), O’Connor ($4.023 million), Hoss Contracting ($4.109 million), Stokes Construction ($4.172 million) and Warton Smith ($4,335 million).

The contract was awarded to Hoss Construction, which is $261,000 higher than the Kern bid.

In a letter to the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, HM Kern president Todd Hodges said he was not contacted about the board’s decision until Monday, adding the company attempted to contact Keith Benton, the director of maintenance for Stanly County Schools (SCS).

“We contacted Keith and he would not provide any details. He would not confirm if the contract was awarded or even that it had been voted on by the Board,” the letter states.

Benton spoke to the board regarding the bids at the school board meeting. He said the staff “suggest we go with Hoss Contracting.”

Board member Glenda Gibson said the facilities committee also recommended Hoss, asking Benton to speak about his past experiences working with the company.

“I have worked with them multiple times over my years of doing additions in schools…they have a really good portfolio for school construction,” Benson said. “They do a lot of construction for Wingate University. They are their preferred contractor.”

Benton said Hoss was a very “responsive” contractor, adding they “value what as an education dollar we’re looking for. They’re here for us, to protect us and to do their due diligence to the contract and design of the architects.”

When asked by SCS Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis about schools on which Hoss has done work, Benton listed Monroe High School and Aquadale Elementary.

Gibson asked Benton to describe how staff determined Hoss to have made “the lowest responsive bid.”

Benton said in making the determination of lowest responsive bid, “you look at the lowest bid, but responsive is you take into consideration some stuff that the architect might know about contractors of that sort as far as their ability to complete in a timely fashion, their abilities to not coming back for submitting of change orders, which can run general contract costs up pretty fast.” He added architects “agreed in that they would support Hoss Contracting.”

Board member Dustin Lisk asked about what portion of the project would be with local contractors. Benton said Moore’s Grading would do site work, along with Garmon Mechanical Service for plumbing, heat and air conditioning. TDR Plumbing “is somewhat local, in the next county over,” he added. According to its website, TDR Plumbing is based in Union County.

In terms of being qualified, Hodges said, in the letter to commissioners, Benton alluded Hoss Contracting was more qualified.

“Please remember that all bidders were approved as qualified prior to the bids being submitted on February 29, 2024,” the letter read.

Benton said Kern, in its bid form, planned to use TDR Plumbing and Moore’s Grading.

Kern’s president said in his letter his company was not contacted for additional information, and also sent to commissioners a letter from 2017 from former maintenance director of SCS Todd Bowers. In the letter, Bowers said he had “nothing but praise” for the company and “would look forward to working with HM Kern should they be awarded another contract with Stanly County Schools.” In 2017, Kern completed a remodeling project at Norwood Elementary.

In the current letter to commissioners, Kern’s president stated, “Failure of the Board of Education to reconsider and follow the state guidelines for bidding GS 143-128 will result in lower interest in future construction projects and potential legal action as related to the Endy Elementary School-Classroom Additions and Renovations Project.”

In a text sent this week to The Stanly News & Press, Stanly County Board of Education chair Carla Poplin responded to a question regarding the board’s choice of contractors.

“We want to ensure that the students of Stanly County Schools have the best learning environment available balancing cost-effectiveness with building classrooms that will serve our students for the next 50-60 years,” Poplin said.

Regarding Kern’s concerns, Poplin said, “We are aware of the concerns brought forth by the contractor and are in the process of reaching out to the contractor to schedule a meeting where we can re-evaluate their bid.”

In an email to The Stanly News & Press, it was revealed Kern was contacted Thursday by SCS for a 9 a.m. Monday meeting between Dennis and Kern. The school board has a work session scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday as well.