In a split vote, the Mexico Beach city council may have violated an ordinance regarding competitive bidding.

In a split vote, the Mexico Beach city council may have violated an ordinance regarding competitive bidding.

During a workshop three weeks ago the council agreed to have a third party evaluate the foundation slab beneath the historic Parker House which was deemed usable by the insurance company.

At Tuesday’s workshop, it was noted that a formal written statement had been provided from the insurance company to say that the slab is in good condition but the council intends to show them another conflicting analysis in an attempt to leverage additional money.

“The insurance company is saying that the slab is fine,” said Councilman Jack Mullen before bringing up the analysis from Cathey Construction, which found issues with the existing foundation. “Obviously, we don’t agree.”

After the council agreed to get a second opinion, city administrator Chris Hubbard solicited “informal bids” by phone for several engineering firms recommended by the Bay County commissioners. The council received one bid from Nova Engineering and Environmental out of Panama City.

Before the council could accept the bid, Mullen read ordinance number 177 that states that expenditures over $3,000 require competitive bids.

Nova’s $3,500 bid for soil borings and structural analysis put the council in a bind since no other bids were received.

According to an amendment made in 1999 during a special meeting, the city could not hold a vote until they had “unsuccessfully attempted competitive bidding.” Ordinance 177 also stated that there is an exception when the vote is in the best interest of the citizens of the city.

Hubbard told the council that if it solicited sealed bids, it would take at least six more weeks before an analysis contract could be approved.

 “We can’t violate our own laws,” said Councilwoman Tanya Castro.

The council tried to stay mindful that those in violation of the ordinance are considered guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

“You don’t get a speeding ticket for going 37 in a 35,” said Cathey. “We can violate or not violate.”

Mullen interpreted the ordinance as though the council had the ability to change it based on need.

Castro didn’t see a point in taking additional bids since Nova’s “informal bid” price of $3,500 was public knowledge.

 “We could make a case that we have complied,” said Mullen, referencing the fact that no other bids had been received.

Councilman Lanny Howell made a motion to hire Nova for the analysis despite the existing ordinance. It was put to vote and passed 3-2 with Howell, Cathey and Councilman Bobby Pollock in support.

To date, the city has received $660,000 for damages to thehistoric Parker House, purchased by the city in mid-2011 with the intention of using it as a new city hall. The building caught fire several months later and suffered massive damage though no additional insurance monies have been paid in the past year.

During the meeting, new city clerk Adrian Welle was in attendance, having successfully relocated from Minnesota to Mexico Beach to take up the tumultuous title.

The council took a moment to check in with Welle about his experience to date. The clerk said that he’d been busy with a 277-page book of Florida ordinances and statutes, though he hadn’t been trained on the city’s accounting software.

“I can do things, but I don’t want to,” joked Welle, referencing former clerk Sharon McGhee, who attempted to be proactive with the city’s accounting software, but struggled. McGhee resigned several days later.