ARDMORE, Tennessee – Doss Brothers Inc., the construction company owned by State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss (R-Leoma), the House sponsor of Governor Bill Haslam’s gas-tax increasing IMPROVE Act, is currently performing work at a road construction site on SR 7 in Ardmore, Tennessee, as well as several Giles County locations which lie within the House District 70, which he currently represents.
According to TDOT records (page 10 of 17) and Bid Express, the “Secure Internet Bidding” website that handles departments of transportation for 38 states including Tennessee, the bid was “generated” on March 6, 2017, and “let” (awarded) on March 31, 2017.
The successful bidding contractor was Rogers Group, Inc., with a “Total Bid” of $2,290,682.00 and a “completion time on or before December 15, 2017,” for “The grading, drainage and paving on U.S. 31 (S.R. 7) from Union Hill Road to Morrow Road in Ardmore,” Giles County
Doss Brothers, Inc. heavy equipment, clearly marked as such, has been unmistakably observed within the past week at a road construction site on SR 7 in Ardmore, Tennessee, as seen in the image on the right.
The Tennessee Star asked Rep. Doss to comment as to whether Doss Brothers, Inc. equipment has been used on a road construction project on SR 7 in Ardmore, if the project is funded directly or indirectly by TDOT, and how much Doss Brothers, Inc. is being paid for the project.
“If these claims are true do you acknowledge that your previous statement about the passage of the IMPROVE ACT that ‘there is no benefit to my company because of this bill’ is factually inaccurate?” The Star asked Doss in an email sent on Tuesday.
Rep. Doss did not respond to any of these questions. He did not deny, however, that Doss Brothers, Inc. equipment was in use at the project.
“The turn lane being constructed in Ardmore on SR7 was announced 2 years ago and was set to bid before the improve act was introduced! Doss brothers inc. did not bid on the project!” Doss told The Star in an emailed statement sent on Wednesday morning.
The Star asked Rep. Doss several follow-up questions, but received no response to any of them:
1. If the turn lane was announced 2 years ago and Doss Brothers did not bid the project, why is Doss Brothers working on the project now?
2. How much is Doss Brothers being paid to work on the project?
3. Who is the general contractor who won the bid from TDOT?
4. When was the contract awarded?
5. When did the general contractor award Doss Brothers a subcontract to work the project?
In an April interview, Doss said his company didn’t have the capability of doing road work, telling News Channel 4, “I am not a road builder; I can’t compete with road builders.” And continued,
I am a small rural general contractor who happens to do dirt work and paving. I have never paved a Tennessee road in my life. I’ve never paved a city road, and I’ve never paved a county road in my life.
In that interview, Doss denied that the passage of the IMPROVE Act would be of any personal value to him, saying “So, there is no benefit to my company because of this bill.”
The dates the bid was generated and “let” are significant, both within the month of March 2017, in that the IMPROVE Act was filed for introduction on February 7, passed in the House Transportation Subcommittee on March 1, passed the House Transportation Committee on March 15, which Doss chaired, and after passing through the House Local Government Committee and Finance, Ways & Means Committee, passed on the House floor April 19.
During this period, Doss was a key player in forcing the IMPROVE Act through the House Transportation Committee, and, as chairman, even broke rules to ram the bill through the House Transportation Committee. Additionally, as the bill sponsor, Doss presented the bill in committees he did not chair as well as on the House floor.
A search of Tennessee’s “Online Campaign Finance Database” reveals that for his 2016 re-election campaign, Doss received $1,500 from Rogers Group Inc. PAC; $1,000 from Tennessee Highway Contractors PAC; as well as $2,000 from Governor Haslam’s PAC, JOBS4TNPAC.
Doss Brothers, Inc. has also been observed doing road work within Pulaski city limits at College and Second Streets.
According to the bill’s fiscal memo, the passage of the IMPROVE Act, in addition to the near $300 million increase to the state Highway Fund, allocated an extra $39 million to cities and counties for local road projects for fiscal year 2017-18.
The denials by Doss in the News Channel 4 interview were in response to calls by the Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA) on March 28 and again on April 14, 2017, for Speaker Beth Harwell to investigate a possible ethics violation by Doss, both of which were ignored.
The final amount size of the SR-7 Ardmore project won by the Rogers Group on March 31, 2017–$2.2 million–is $700,000 greater than a project on the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) SPOT (Statewide Project Overview Tracker) website identified as “SR-7 (Main St.) from Union Hill Rd. to Morrow Rd. in Ardmore” with an “estimated cost to completion of $1.5 million.”
SPOT also indicates that the project is not part of the backlog. As defined on TDOT SPOT, “Backlog projects are projects that TDOT has already begun, invested in and is committed to finishing.”
Indeed, the project did not appear on the previous TDOT backlog list from November 2015, which can be seen here.
In a more recent TDOT document dated just five months ago in May 2017 identifying proposed projects for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020, the project is not listed in any of the three years.