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Army official: No decision yet on tile

December 9, 2009

LISBON - A federal official says a final decision has yet to be made in the case of a local tile manufacturer that maintains it lost a no-bid government contract to a foreign competitor.

Joyce McDonald, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district office in Savannah, Ga., sent this reporter an e-mail clarifying the situation involving the Summitville Tiles Co. in Summitville, which is owned and operated by the Johnson family and run by David Johnson, who is also chairman of the Columbiana County Republican Party.

Johnson claims his company lost a $250,000 contract to a German firm to supply exterior wall tile for an elementary school being built at Fort Bragg, N.C., by the U.S. Army. He says the Army awarded the no-bid contract to the German manufacturer before Summitville Tiles could even submit a bid.

In her e-mail, McDonald said the decision who gets the tile contract will be made by the project's general contractor, Balfour Beatty Corp. of Virginia and not by the Army Corps of Engineers. She said that as of Dec. 1, the company had yet to select a tile vendor for the project.

"I'm glad to hear that, but that's news to us," said Johnson, adding the architect for the project told them the German tile had already been pre-selected for the project.

McDonald went on to say Balfour Beatty "is soliciting bids for brick veneers from several manufacturers including Summitville Tile, from Ohio, and Feldhaus, a German-owned company which operates from Greenville, S.C." Feldhaus' tile is manufactured in Germany.

Again, Johnson said this came as news to him. "We have not been given the opportunity to bid for this project," he said.

McDonald said a "full and open competition bidding process" was followed in compliance with all federal regulations before the general contract was awarded to Balfour Beatty for $37 million. She said the project isn't being funded with federal stimulus money, which is contrary to what Johnson has claimed.

"That's not what our research shows, and we were told by Sen. Voinovich's office that it was stimulus money, so that remains to be seen," Johnson said, adding that even if it isn't stimulus money "it's still taxpayer money."

McDonald said Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that were followed allow for the purchase of construction materials from nations which are part of the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement nations, which includes Germany, whenever the contract exceeds $7.4 million.

"Please assure your readers that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports and practices full and open competition as allowed by the FAR and other applicable statutes," she concluded.

In addition to enlisting the aid of Ohio's congressional delegation and filing formal complaints with the Defense Department's Inspector General, Johnson said he has made multiple calls to the Army Corps of Engineers that have gone unreturned.

"It's funny they'll contact the newspapers but they won't call me," he said.



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