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Hertford awards contract to higher bidder

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Monday, April 15, 2019

HERTFORD — Hertford Town Council has awarded a contract to a local company to install new LED street lighting even though its bid was more than $20,000 higher than the lowest bidder.

Council voted 4-1 last week to award a $87,535 contract to Greener By LED, a firm owned by local resident Tony Riddick. Mayor Horace Reid cast the lone “no” vote.

The low bid for the street lighting was $61,000. However, that bid was withdrawn because the street lights it would have installed apparently had never been field-tested. The next lowest bid for the lighting work was $64,477.  

Three times before council voted to approve Greener By LED’s $87,535 bid, town attorney John Leidy cautioned that councilors should award the contract to the “lowest, responsible bidder.”

“I want to caution the board to pick the lowest responsible bidder,” Leidy said.

Councilors nonetheless proceeded to approve Greener By LED’s higher bid.

Riddick, a regular attendee at town council meetings, has been criticized by some citizens for owing the town unpaid property taxes. Riddick, who owes the town about $30,000, has blamed the unpaid taxes on the Great Recession, which he said hit his housing business especially hard. He’s also alleged the town previously has forgiven unpaid taxes for other property taxpayers that were for a much larger amount. He hasn’t named those taxpayers, however.

Riddick, who is African-American, claims that only about 1 percent of all government contracts go to black-owned businesses.

Councilor Frank Norman said the town’s bid specifications are too complicated, adding that it may be one reason why the town doesn’t attract more bids from local contractors, especially minority contractors.

Riddick recently showed councilors a video that detailed local literacy events he’s put on and sports teams he’s coached or mentored.

In voting to award Riddick’s firm the lighting contract, both Norman and Quentin Jackson, council’s mayor pro tem, cited Riddick’s civic work. 

Murriel Harmon, a town resident and regular attendee of town council meetings, also praised Riddick’s work with kids and the schools during the public comments portion of the meeting. But addressing Riddick, she also said it “doesn’t give you a free pass for a contract.”

Last week’s Town Council meeting also included a vote to force Councilor Sid Eley’s removal from the town’s fire department, an agency he’s served for 49 years. 

The vote followed Jackson’s claim that Eley is trying to undermine him. A judge found Jackson guilty of assaulting Eley following a council meeting last October. Jackson, however, has appealed the ruling to Superior Court.

Jackson told Eley to turn in his fire gear by the end of the day on Tuesday. Eley said Tuesday he planned to meet with an attorney over the issue.

Based on Leidy’s comments at last week’s meeting, it’s unclear if Hertord Town Council has the authority to remove Eley from the town’s fire department.

Leidy said the volunteer fire department is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. The department’s main connection with the town is that it uses trucks and equipment owned by the town. The town also pays the department a small amount for each call it answers.

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