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Rec roof bids raise questions

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

FRIES — Bids to put a new roof on the Town of Fries' Recreation Center may have to be re-advertised after coming in with major discrepancies.

Fries Town Manager Brian Reed updated town council on the process during its regular meeting Tuesday, noting that bids were accepted earlier that week.

Reed said the bids were "all over the place," and that there appeared to be a "major discrepancy" in the amounts.

Five bids were received, with amounts having a difference of more than $200,000.

Reed said there were no actual documents for the contractors to go by, and that he was working with state agencies to see if the bids need to be re-advertised, or if the town can simply negotiate a price with the low bidder.

For now, the bids have been tabled until more information can be found.

U.S. Cellular will pay for the roof replacement as part of an agreement the cell phone company made with the town if its controversial cell tower received permanent authority.

After a four-year battle for permanent authority, the Federal Communications Commission dismissed all petitions to deny the tower's placement on June 22.

The issue had been ongoing since 2005, when U.S. Cellular installed the tower without filing necessary paperwork with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

According to FCC documents, in Feb. 2007, both the FCC and the state Department of Historic Resources signed an agreement allowing the cell company to activate the tower under a "special temporary authority."

At the same time, a group of Fries citizens — calling themselves Fries Friends for Intelligent Tower Setting (FFITS) — complained to the state department about the tower location. The group said it wanted the tower moved to a less intrusive spot away from the river and the historic mill town.

The FCC ruled that the tower “has no significant impact on the environment."

Along with the money for the roof replacement, U.S. Cellular will also pay an additional $17,000 for a Transportation Enhancement Project and $4,000 for the Heritage Tourism Signage Project to inform visitors about historical sites within the town.

Dick Gibson, lawyer for the cell phone company, told The Gazette in July that U.S. Cellular continues to work with the Town of Fries to provide the promised funding.

Once plans are developed for the projects, Gibson said the money would be sent.