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Low bid doesn't win contract for Chesapeake VFD firm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County commissioners awarded a contract for 55 mobile digital radios for firefighters to a Putnam County company despite a Kanawha business's lower bid. 

Communication Services Inc., which is owned by the Chesapeake Volunteer Fire Department, submitted a bid of $34,610. Hughes Supply Co. of Putnam County submitted a $63,198 bid.

Commissioners voted to 2-1 to award the bid to Hughes. Commission President Kent Carper cast the dissenting vote.

Commissioner Dave Hardy has been at odds with Chesapeake over its financial practices. The fire department has failed to provide all of the financial information the commission has requested, Hardy said.

"I don't know of any organization that has shown the commission as much disrespect as the Chesapeake Fire Department," Hardy said.

Hardy also believes it is easy for a company to submit a low bid when they may enjoy operating under a non-profit status granted to all fire departments.

"It's just easy to be the low bidder when you're not playing on a level playing field," he said.

Hardy, who has publicly criticized the department for not providing information to the commission, said the agency officials had recently asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement.

This agreement would prevent him from publicly discussing any information pertaining to the fire department, he said.

Carper agreed that asking a commissioner to sign a confidentiality agreement was ridiculous.

"I would never sign a confidentiality agreement," Carper said.

"That takes a lot of nerve," Hardy said. "It's unbelievable." 

However, Carper cast the lone vote against not awarding the bid to Communication Services Inc. because he believes the department's financial issues have nothing to do with its ability to provide quality radio equipment to first responders.

County Homeland Security and Emergency Service personnel also recommended that the bid go to Communication Services Inc., Carper said.

"Should a fire department own a radio business?" he asked. "That's a philosophical discussion."

Commissioners also awarded a contract for auditing county offices to a company that was not the low bidder.

Gibbons & Kawash was awarded the contract despite the fact that the company submitted the high bid of $56,000. Suttle & Stalnaker PLLC submitted a $53,000 bid.

Perry & Associates submitted a $43,000 bid and Teed & Associates submitted a $38,000 bid.

However, the commissioners unanimously opted to go with Gibbons & Kawash because they were familiar with the company's work from past audits. The commissioners and county staff were also satisfied with the company's work during last year's audit.

"In my opinion Gibbons & Kawash go above and beyond," county Chief Fiscal Officer David Fontalbert said.

Commissioners also unanimously agreed to withhold $20,000 from both the Tornado and Handley volunteer fire departments. Neither department has turned in financial tax forms to the commission despite numerous requests to do so, Carper said.

However, Handley officials are attempting to get their financial records in order and provide them to the commission, Carper said.

The Tornado Fire Department has not returned any calls from county staff, said Dale Petry, director of Kanawha County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"We haven't been able to get a hold of anyone with Tornado at all," he said.

Commissioners also agreed to withhold $10,000 from the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department.

The Smithers department, which serves part of Kanawha and Fayette counties, is under investigation by the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, Hardy said. 

The commissioners also approved a $95,000 request by the Elk Valley Public Service District to raise a pump station near Mink Shoals out of a floodplain.

The money will come from the coal severance fund.

The entire project will cost about $189,000, county Project Manager Colt Sandoro said. The public service district will provide the remaining funds, he said.          

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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