NEWBERRY – The bidding process for four City of Newberry projects began several weeks ago but some confusion regarding Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) certification left contractors frustrated.

The city commission approved the bid recommendations for four of the five projects, but voted to rebid the Drainage Improvements Project because all of the bids were higher than the amount the city had budgeted to spend.

To some of those who attended the commission meeting on Monday, there was more to the story.

The ensuing conversation about the FDOT certification riled residents in the packed commission chambers.

The FDOT certification is an expensive certification to maintain, Hipp Construction Company's Virginia Johns said at the meeting.

Some persons in attendance alleged that bidders had been told ahead of time that the FDOT certification was not a prerequisite to place a bid, while yet others said they were told they’d have enough time to complete the FDOT certification. Another line of argument was that many times bidders are not required to be FDOT certified for bids under $250,000.

City Attorney Scott Walker said that the city has used the FDOT certification for over five years, but added that the language in the city's advertisements could have been clearer.

“It ticks me off when the local people don’t get the job,” resident Kevin Coleman said at the meeting.

Because of the expensive maintenance level, the FDOT certification favors certain businesses over others, it was argued.

While the project was voted to be rebid, the rebid was not based on the FDOT certificate, but rather on the high bid prices.

The commission did discuss ideas about how to handle bid projects in the future to save the city money. Discussion included using similar guidelines that the FDOT certification requires, but not requiring the bidder to be officially FDOT certified.

Also discussed was adding residents with more construction experience on the Request for Proposals/Qualifications Committee, which gives the bid recommendations to the city commission.