FRANKLIN COUNTY — In a split vote, the Franklin County Commissioners voted Wednesday to award an engineering contract for a new dispatch center to the low bidder, rather than the firm that has been working with the county on the project.

Plymouth Engineering, of Plymouth, will design the building for $29,860, a bid that was well below five others, which ranged from $37,000 to $53,249.

Commissioner Clyde Barker voted against the award, favoring instead a $44,000 bid from Smith, Reuter and Lull Architects. That firm has been working with a county committee during the last several months to develop cost estimates and initial design plans.

“They went with the cheapest one,” said Barker. “I wanted to stay with the one that we had. The one that’s carried us through.”

Barker said that he felt the switch would cost the county more than the upfront savings, and questioned whether the low bid would result in a good job.

“I think they’ll find its going to cost them more,” Barker said.

Fred Marshall, a project manager with Plymouth, said that the firm was able to bid low because it will be able to take advantage of the groundwork that has been laid by Smith, Reuter and Lull.

“The process was based on the plan that they had spent a lot of time already developing,” Marshall said. “We weren’t talking about going back and redoing what was done.”

Commissioners George McGrane and Fred Hardy voted in favor of Plymouth.

Hardy said that Plymouth’s references were checked, and that there were no complaints against the company.

“It’s quite a lot of money,” Hardy said. “I just couldn’t really be convinced of any reason why we shouldn’t hire this other firm.”

Project planners hope to complete the framework of the new dispatch center in Farmington before winter. Marshall said that Plymouth is comfortable with the estimated project cost of $598,300.

“We felt that was adequate,” he said.

Vickie Braley, deputy clerk for the county, said that the commissioners expect to meet with Plymouth and sign a contract sometime next week.

At that point, the firm will prepare the project elements to be put out to bid for various contractors, which will take about six weeks, according to Marshall.

The dispatch center was approved by county voters in June by a 27-vote margin, 2,062-2,035.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

[email protected]

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