A dispute over Rock Hill’s purchasing policy – which gives an advantage to local companies bidding on city projects – has delayed the hiring of a contractor to expand the city’s police station and courtroom building.
The City Council on Monday delayed action on the $1.7 million project to give officials time to look into the background of the company that submitted the lowest bid.
The delay came after Leitner Construction owner Mac Leitner sent a written appeal asking the city to put its “local purchasing policy” into force.
Leitner’s bid for the nearly 8,500-square-foot addition to the Black Street building came in about $9,000 higher than a bid from Southside Builders Inc. – a newly formed South Carolina business that partners with Charlotte-based Southside Constructors Inc.
Leitner said his Rock Hill-based company would match Southside Builders’ bid of $1,736,130 if given the chance.
Rock Hill’s local purchasing policy gives a competitive advantage to local companies whose bids fall within 5 percent of the lowest bid for a city contract, with a $25,000 cap.
Southside Constructors co-founder Darryl Kellough, who represented Southside Builders at Monday’s meeting, told the council he and many of his employees live in York County. The company is registered and in “good standing” with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office, according to that agency’s website.
Law enforcement officials have said the expansion to Rock Hill’s Law Center is crucial, because office and courtroom space are cramped. A small office in the law center is sometimes used as a courtroom when the center’s large courtroom is in use.
Rock Hill police have said they need more training space and private rooms to meet with victims and suspects.
Councilman Kevin Sutton questioned Kellough about his company’s past projects and its plans to employ local sub-contractors.
Southside Builders would hire some sub-contractors from Fort Mill and Rock Hill, Kellough said.
“We put the local policy in place not necessarily to give just to one contractor or local contractor,” Sutton said. “There’s a trickle-down effect to folks who are going to do the flooring and who are going to do the lighting and the electrical.
“It kind of keeps the money here in Rock Hill and York County.”
Sutton suggested the council delay voting on the contract, he said, because he wants more time to research Southside Builders.
Kellough told the council the Law Center expansion would be Southside Builders’ first project, but that Southside Constructors is doing work in York County and surrounding counties, including building Chester County’s Convention Center on S.C. 9.
Southside Constructors, formed in 1999, also built the Main Street Children’s Museum in downtown Rock Hill in 2010.
Southside Builders and Southside Constructors are the “same group,” Kellough said, and its leaders have the “same resumes.”
Leitner Construction has completed about 80 projects for the city of Rock Hill since 1973, Leitner said.
The $1.7 million Law Center expansion is not a permanent fix but should meet Rock Hill’s needs for the next decade, Deputy City Manager Jimmy Bagley said.
The law center’s parking lot was recently dug up for underground utility work. It won’t be repaved until the expansion begins, Bagley said, to avoid wasting money.
A decision on which builder gets the work could come as early as the next council meeting in two weeks, Bagley said.
“The longer we wait,” he said, “the more we’re inconveniencing people using the site.”
In other action, the council gave initial approval to a plan that would limit where restaurants can open in the city if they serve alcohol and stay open until 2 a.m.
City planners say the new regulation would clarify the difference between restaurants that serve alcohol and entertainment venues such as bars and nightclubs that happen to serve food and stay open until 2 a.m.
Several council members voiced concern that new rules could chill the city’s attempt to attract businesses that serve college students near downtown and Winthrop University.
Mayor Doug Echols and others asked that the planning department revise its proposal and bring it back to the council.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068