Blythewood Town Council Awards Contracts at Special Meeting

In a special called meeting at Town Hall Monday, Blythewood Town Council voted to award bids for three contracts.

Land Plan Group South was lowest bidder ($5,500) of three companies vying to rewrite the town’s Tree and Landscape Ordinance. The other two bidders were Sustainable Site ($9,500) and HBG Engineering ($9,700.)

RABCO, a company owned by Richard A. Branham, the father of Councilman Jeff Branham, was the low bidder, at $25,000, for a contract to clean up the railroad right-of-way in the downtown area from McLean Road, along Highway 21, to a point that is approximately across from the entrance to Blythewood High School.

While Councilman Branham recused himself from voting to award the bid, he did not submit a written statement at the meeting explaining his recusal nor did he leave the room during the discussion and vote on the matter as required by the state ethics commission. It was also not made clear during the meeting that the Councilman’s father was the low bidder.

Mayor J. Michael Ross asked Town Administrator John Perry if there was a conflict. Perry and Councilman Branham both said only that the bidder was a relative of Councilman Branham’s.

When the mayor asked Perry what RABCO stood for, Perry answered that it was the name of the company that submitted the low bid.

Perry said there were four bidders on the railroad right-of-way clean-up project, but did not disclose who the other three were or the amount of their bids. He did say the bids ranged from $25,000 to $133,000.

Asked by Councilman Ed Garrison how long the project would take, Perry said “a few months.” He said the goal of the project is to clean, shape and plant the right-of-way to be more attractive.

Following the meeting, Councilman Branham was asked by The Voice to explain his recusal. Branham said RABCO was the name of his father’s company that won the bid, and that R. A. B. are the initials for his father’s name, Richard Aaron Branham.

Councilman Branham said he knew nothing about the bid except that Perry had called him sometime during February or March to ask for his father’s phone number because he (Perry) had a project he (Richard Branham) might be interested in bidding.

A third bid was awarded to SCE&G ($25,600) for lighting  (lamp posts) to be installed along McNulty Road with the wires to be buried underground. Perry said SCE&G was the only bidder.

Other Council action…

Council also approved the Park Committee’s recommendation that the fountain in the formal garden and parts of the Sprayground fountain not be built at this time to leave enough money in the initial $5.5 million to pay for two rest room facilities to be located in proximity to the sprayground and children’s park.

In his remarks, the mayor suggested including one student from Blythewood High School and one from Westwood High School on the Park Committee.

Following the open meeting, Council voted to go into executive session to discuss negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements. Council discussed the matter but took no action.

The Council was also scheduled to receive legal advice in executive session relating to a pending, threatened or potential claim, but that item was postponed until a later date because Jim Meggs, the town’s attorney, said Mr. Wren could not be there.  While a specific claim was not mentioned, Michael B. Wren, with the Davidson Morrison and Lindemann law firm of Columbia, is the lead attorney representing the Town of Blythewood in a lawsuit that was brought last December by South Capital Group, Inc. against the Town, Councilman Ed Garrison, Crescent Hills Partners LLC and/or Crescent Partners SRES LLC, which the complaint alleges was formed by Garrison, either individually or with others.

According to the lawsuit, South Capital Group, Inc. is asking for damages in excess of $10 million.