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Trying to make sense of the 'corn road' and school board bid snafu

Posted Thursday, April 29, 2010, at 1:59 PM

It's been an eventful week in the newsroom and elsewhere.

Many questions were raised in two particular stories that I covered.

First, we had a county road in Fairplay Township reported to be planted in corn -- an obvious encroachment on county property that has been taking place for "several" years, according to word that was received by the Greene County Commissioners on Monday morning.

Now why does this not surprise me too much?

It was kind of funny at the onset, but it's rather disturbing when you consider that this particular -- hardly-maintained county dirt road -- has actually been planted in corn and possibly other grain crops several times before.

Current tenants to the land is Cornelius Farms from Daviess County.

It is supposed to be on a county map somewhere as a road, but I'm told that officials haven't been able to locate it yet.

The commissioners have apparently never taken formal action to officially close the road, so it remains a county road, not an extension to some contracted farmer's field.

The commissioners appeared surprised when a not-to-happy farming neighbor -- Arnold Graves -- brought the matter to their attention in a public meeting.

You'd think someone would have noticed or at least asked a few questions before the ground was plowed and seed dropped in the ground for another year.

One commissioner kind of blew it all off and questioned what can be done about the situation since the planting already had been done.

What kind of logic is that?

On the same day, a story surfaced about an alleged and forthcoming "payoff" by the Bloomfield School District to a contractor, who's low bid was shunned on a house demolition project near the school campus.

We confirmed that talks between an attorney for the school and legal counsel for a Linton businessman are under way to settle a rather sticky situation.

The businessman was asked to figure up his anticipated profit margin on a job that he never won a contract for. He says the school wants to "compensate" him in that amount to avert a future lawsuit.

That figure exceeds $1,000.

We understand that the cash to pay the rejected low bidder is coming from insurance funds, but that's still money that will come back to bite the taxpayers when the insurance company hikes the school district's premium because of this claim -- to cover its backside.

The story actually dates back to February, when the bids or quotes were opened by the school board.

All of the bids were taken under advisement initially.

The next month -- after negotiating a price with the next lowest bidder -- Riley Terrell Lawn Service -- the board awarded the contract to tear down five vacant homes that will be used for future school projects.

It seems the school board didn't like the low bid from a Linton-based land clearing business, which was more than $1,500 under the next lowest quote.

There was even talk among the board members that a reason for seeking another bid/quote was that the low bidder wasn't a local company.

Is Linton not local when it comes to proximity to Bloomfield?

I know the good old White River is wide in places and runs deep, but come on, a Linton business has to be regarded as local, if the county is ever going to prosper.

Let's understand that the board didn't even have to bid the demolition project out legally -- because it fell under a $25,000 threshold.

But when it was carried out by a sealed bid, you would have thought it would have been handled different -- rather than authorizing the superintendent to simply negotiate a better price.

The superintendent did just that.

He came back at the March meeting with a price that was $1 less than the lower bidder on both the base and alternate bids.

I can tell you the superintendent followed the wishes of the majority of the board, who voted 6-1 to accept the negotiated price.

Details of the transaction could surface at the school board's regular meeting on Thursday night.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned here and they are the kind of lessons you won't find in a school book.

Was the action legal? Yes, it was.

Was the action ethical? That's where the question marks start popping up.

Was the action a smart way to do business in a small community? Definitely not.

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com.

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What's the point of a bid if they aren't going to honor the low bid? Just give it to the "good ole boy" they want to do it and be done with it, if it is so legal.

Smells pretty rotten to me!!!

As for the road that was planted---How could anyone legally give permission to plant a ROAD in corn or any other crop??? Talk about your "good ole boy" syndrome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Posted by Sue62 on Tue, Apr 27, 2010, at 8:04 PM

I am wondering how long it will take the County Officials to find the road that they have lost.

then how many years it will take, to do any thing to it.

can Arnold Graves be compensated for the loss of access to his property that they neglected to protect for him.

-- Posted by Busseron on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 11:41 PM

I am starting a new business of doing about anything. I will let sealed bids be opened then under bid them by $1.00, I will let those that invest the time, resources, employees, property, equipment on and on submit a bid based on making a return profit for all the above mentioned risk/investment. (also provide steady jobs) Then, me with nothing but a computer and printer submit a so-so bid take it away from the honest working business owner. I am sure I can pickup some workes somewhere to do the job.

I know this is not always the case but think about it.

Are sealed bids that are submited then subject to a reverse auction to get the job? If so you better let me know about it up front.

-- Posted by gary g on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 7:14 PM

But in a lawsuit he COULD win. If it's decided by a jury, then the letter of the law, doesn't mean as much as it necessarily should. And even if it's a bench trial decided by a judge there are a lot of ambiguities in the law, which is why there are so many lawsuits and no matter the decision there could be appeals which lead to time and expense for both sides. In the case the school district did lose, the cost could turn out to be much greater than the $1000 they have currently agreed to.

However, I'd like to see the superintendent and school board members step up and take some responsibility for their actions. How about they offer to pay the cost out of their own pockets?

-- Posted by RB on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 4:54 PM

The way this was handled is very disturbing. If you start a bidding process that does not need to be started aren't you bound to the process? What happens in the future? This could bring the people involved to the fore front of any questionable procedures. Did the board know about this or was the superintendent told to do it and he/she brought to the board as a low bid without them knowing how it became the low bid? My guess is the superintendent in question is going to blame someone else, when in fact it was their idea to show the bids to the eventual winner. I do not agree with suing the school but all the people involved owe an apology to the business that was ethically slighted. The superintendent also needs to be reprimanded and this placed on his record for future review. In the end this was handled poorly and the process should be started over.

-- Posted by Hedley Lamarr on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 11:22 AM

I think that paying off on the profit margin for the upset businessman is rediculus. I say let him sue. As you said, the board's actions were legal. He won't win.

-- Posted by Question? on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 10:34 AM

just another example of the division in the county east vs west. Come on people we all live in the same county!!!

-- Posted by ladycoach on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 10:12 AM

As an employee of another school corp. I know that every penny spent by a school is gone over by the state board of accounts. I wonder how the supt. is going to explain 1000.00 in "payoff money"?

-- Posted by maggiemay50 on Fri, Apr 23, 2010, at 9:03 AM

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