CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Plans are in the works to nearly double the size of the Bradley County Cannery by the time it reopens next spring.
The Bradley County Commission voted 10-3 this week to award a $52,790 contract to Cherokee Construction to add a 360-square-foot segment to the 35-year-old facility.
Construction is expected to begin this fall after the cannery at 3120 Peerless Road NW closes for the 2012 season, said Kim Frady, director of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office that manages the facility. Recently damaged by storms, the cannery is closed temporarily pending cleanup and restoration of power.
The cannery, which measures 24 feet by 20 feet, needs more space to alleviate crowding and help traffic flow, Frady said.
"We need separate areas for food preparation and canning," he said.
Frady said the new area will include a second entrance to the building to facilitate traffic flow.
While county commissioners agreed the expansion should be done, details of the bidding process caused them some confusion before their vote.
A bid of $50,750 submitted by Ray Kerr Construction came under scrutiny because the company did not submit the proper paperwork.
Commissioners argued whether awarding the contract to the lowest bidder might make the county vulnerable to legal action because that bidder did not adhere completely to the bidding rules.
Several commissioners asked that the county seek legal advice from County Attorney Crystal Freiberg, who was absent from the meeting. Some suggested the commission review the issue at a future work session or committee meeting.
But other county officials pressed commissioners for a decision, stating that all details about the bidding process had been presented.
"Other than discussions that are conducted in public, what is it you want to discuss?" Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis asked commissioners.
A motion by Commissioner Jeff Yarber to approve the Ray Kerr Construction bid fell one vote short of the required 10.
The UT Agricultural Extension Office will fund the structural improvements through a 2012 budget surplus caused by an unfilled salaried position at the agency.
Frady said increased interest in canning in recent years spurred the need for the changes.
Three hundred and fifty families have used the facility this year, he said.