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County OKs new landscaping firm
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The county’s lawn maintenance contract mini-saga ended Tuesday night when the Newton County Board of Commissioners approved a low bid from Conyers-based G & G Landscape Management Group.

The board approved a $67,680, one-year contract with G & G, which had the lowest of six bids submitted by vendors that met all of the county’s criteria.

That cost is $12,553 less than the next-lowest qualified bid, and $30,783 less than the previous provider’s contract.

Durden’s Lawn Maintenance had held the contract since 2001 and received a five-year contract renewal in February; however, the Board of Commissioners rescinded that renewal offer after it was discovered that Durden’s Lawn not only didn’t have a current valid business license, but also had operated without a valid license at various times over the years.

The county had 14 contractors submit bids, but only six companies met all of the criteria; Durden’s Lawn did not submit a bid. The highest bid submitted was $180,617; most bids were in the $70,000-$80,000 range.

The six eligible companies were interviewed by a committee of county employees: county manager John Middleton, purchasing director Mary Ann Patterson, landscape architect Debbie Bell, landfill director James Peters and facilities director Jason Johnson.

The contract includes some combination of mowing, weed-eating, cleaning of trash and debris, chemical weed control, edging, shrubbery trimming and fertilization at 21 sites around the county, including several recycling centers, animal control, the Mansfield Community Center, the Historic Courthouse, Newton County Judicial Center, Newton County Health Department and Newton County Administration Building.

G & G currently provides landscaping for the city of Covington and is paid $35,000 annually to maintain four sites, including Covington City Hall, the Covington Police Department, the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and its land application system facility, according to Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon. The company also takes care of a small city employee park off Williams Street for free.

G & G has been with the city for the past several years, and Bouchillon said the company "has done an excellent job for us."

G & G was previously the low bidder several years ago, but the county stuck with Durden’s Lawn. G & G owner Gary Campbell filed a formal complaint with commissioners claiming there was a mathematical mistake in weighting the points – bids are not based purely on price but on several other factors in a point system. The county’s purchasing department rejected his complaint, and Middleton, who was the county’s administrative officer at the time, rejected Campbell’s appeal in February 2007.

The county also looked at the cost of handling the work in-house, and the total estimated cost was $113,896, including $79,646 for two employees: a maintenance worker and a sheriff’s detention officer to supervise inmate labor that would be used. The estimated equipment cost was $29,750, with $1,500 estimated for maintenance and $3,000 for pine straw. The internal calculation did not include fuel costs. However, the internal study noted that using existing equipment could lower the total cost.

After looking at the study, Chairman Keith Ellis agreed with the review committee’s recommendation to go with G & G.