Mississippi Asks Companies to Re-bid on Katrina Cottages Program

November 19, 2007

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has asked companies to re-submit bids to oversee the Hurricane Katrina cottages pilot program.

MEMA said it decided not to extend its $8.9 million contract with Florida-based PBS&J Engineering, the firm in charge for the last nine months.

MEMA officials said it has nothing to do with PBS&J’s performance. The agency wants to “get the lowest bid from the best qualified contractor,” officials wrote in an e-mailed response from The Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

The state did not use a competitive bid process when it selected PBS&J. Officials said they needed to move forward with the cottage program as soon as possible, and the firm was working on other recovery projects when it was chosen.

“We would be nowhere near where we are now, with almost 600 families in our units, had we gone out with a competitive bid in the beginning,” MEMA spokeswoman Ashley Roth told the newspaper. “We now have the time to go through the competitive process while the program is underway.”

A PBS&J spokeswoman said the firm will submit another bid.

In September, the state asked PBS&J to review the cottages’ installation process after a Georgia businessman alleged the structures were not securely fastened to the ground. The businessman, Jerry Brown, hoped his foundation design would be used in the installation process.

A PBS&J engineer wrote the cottages were secure, and state officials said they were satisfied with the response.

MEMA stipulated its next contract with a program manager should not exceed $6 million. It would expire in March 2009 but could be extended.

Bid proposals will be opened Nov. 27.

If a new manager is selected, it would be one of several changes to a program that ultimately will determine whether cottages are a better form of disaster housing than FEMA trailers. Mississippi estimates delivering between 3,000 and 5,000 during the two-year program.

At one point, state officials anticipated delivering between 5,000 and 7,000 cottages. But some of the intended recipients no longer need them because they’re further along in their rebuilding efforts, officials said.

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,

Topics Mississippi

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