Marble City residents upset on choice of Chinese vendor

The Associated Press and The Oklahoman - October 10, 2017 11:04 am

Locals in Marble City, a small community near the Arkansas border, are upset with the state’s decision to restore the Oklahoma Capitol using marble from a Chinese vendor.

The state, however, said it followed its own law by picking the lowest-cost bid that met the project’s specifications.

“It’s the Oklahoma state Capitol, so I feel like it should have marble from the state of Oklahoma and not another country,” said Marble City Mayor Tamara Hibbard. “The marble from Marble City is helping our residents that work there, and they’re putting money back into our economy.”

Over the next four years, workers will replace parts of the Capitol’s lowest floor, eventually laying down about 25,000 square feet of marble. The Capitol Restoration project wanted to spend $3.5 million on a flooring surface, and asked for subcontractors to submit bids.

One of the bids was linked to Polycor, a manufacturing company that produces marble from a quarry in Marble City.

“Unfortunately, the initial bid utilizing Polycor marble came in at $2 million over that budget amount,” Project Manager Trait Thompson wrote in an email to lawmakers. “After consulting with the state, the bid was rejected, which is allowable under (state law).”

The project’s primary contractor, Manhattan Construction, rebid the flooring contract.

“In the second bid package, Polycor’s prices were so high that no subcontractor chose to use their product in their submission. All respondents chose to use marble sourced from other areas,” Thompson wrote.

Manhattan picked the winning bid, which came in $10,000 under the budgeted cost. Thompson noted that the Chinese marble is “superior to the quality of the Polycor product in every measurement category,” including bulk density, water absorption and strength. There is a law that requires state projects to use materials manufactured within the state, but only if they are available and are less costly than other options.

When Hibbard learned that another vendor would be used, she reached out to fellow members of the Eastern Oklahoma Development District and even to lawmakers, who told her they would look into the issue.

“The state’s responsibility in this matter is to ensure the project is completed within the allotted budget, ensure that all applicable bidding laws were followed, and ensure the quality of the workmanship and materials used on the Capitol Restoration Project,” Thompson wrote in response to those inquiries. “In all instances, we are satisfied and find no reason to deviate from the selected course of action.”

However, Hibbard remains unmoved.

“By selecting foreign materials over local materials for our own state Capitol building, what message is that sending to Oklahomans?” she said. “Does supporting ‘Made in Oklahoma’ businesses mean something different when it comes to our own state Legislature?”

 

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