Bill would exempt McClellan Authority from bid law
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Apr 16, 2013 | 4614 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — A bill introduced this month in the Alabama Legislature would exempt the McClellan Development Authority from the state's rules for taking bids from contractors.

"We're just asking them to level the playing field," said Robin Scott, executive director of the authority. "Most industrial authorities don't have to comply with the state bid law, but we do."

Scott is in charge of redevelopment efforts at McClellan, the former Army base in Anniston that closed in 1999. Attempts to reuse the base languished for years amid legal disputes about which entity owned the property.

The authority, also known as MDA, controls the property under a 2009 law that allows the creation of nonprofit corporations to redevelop former military installations. It's a statewide law, but Scott said he knows of no other redevelopment agency formed under the legislation.

"We're like an industrial development authority on steroids," Scott said. "We have to be, because a military base is like an entire community."

Other industrial agencies try to recruit new industries into industrial or business properties; McClellan owns large tracts of land and infrastructure, some of it originally residential.

Under state law, when the authority enters into a contract, it must go through the same bidding process as other state agencies -- putting out a request for bids for any expenditure of more than $15,000. Other industrial agencies, he said, don't have to do that.

Calvin Miller, director of the Talladega County Economic Development Authority, said his organization often took multiple bids for projects -- but wasn't required to by state law.

"We don't have official threshold," Miller said. "If there's something we can get locally and there are several vendors, we'll bid it out. And of course construction is expensive, so you're going to want to see some competition."

The Talladega organization, Miller said, is a 501 (c) 6 nonprofit, not a state agency, so the state bid law wouldn't apply. Mike McCain, director of the Gadsden/Etowah Industrial Development Authority, said the same.

"Authority is in our name, but in reality we're a nonprofit," he said.

Attempts to reach Calhoun County Economic Development Council director Don Hopper were unsuccessful Monday afternoon. Scott said that organization is exempt from the state's bidding law.

MDA doesn't get the same exemption as the 501 (c) 6 organizations.

"We're not a 501 (c)-anything," Scott said. "We're a nonprofit corporation created by state statute."

Scott is quick to point out that the organization’s only regular source of income is from the lease or sale of land on the former base. The authority also sometimes gets funding from federal grants.

The authority already has an incentive to seek the lowest bid, Scott said, because of its limited pool of funds. The state bidding process, he said, could be more time-consuming than an internally created bidding system.

"It cuts down on your response time," he said.

Scott said he presented the idea for the bill to local legislators earlier this year, and they responded positively.

"He made a good case that they needed this," said Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the bill's Senate sponsor.

Several local bills have faced a tough slog through the Legislature this year, but Marsh's bill may avoid some of that. While the bill appears to affect only McClellan, it's a statewide measure that would affect any future organizations created in the same way as the MDA.

Marsh's bill awaits committee approval in the Senate.

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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