Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 9, 2014

Award of shell building contract questioned

— Dear Commissioners,

I write to express my opinion on the bid and award process of the new shell building for the Barton Business Park.

I find it very ironic that the award for this project was made at the same meeting that the county adopted a new budget that you indicated in the meeting dealt with fiscal realities and provisions for the future.

I have been involved in this design/build process with Lashley Construction from the beginning and attended the pre-proposal meeting and reviewed the bid documents and requirements and also have received a copy of the letter from Gary Imes of Lashley Construction to the commission regarding the bid and award process.

The article in the June 8 edition of the Cumberland Times (“County officials hope new shell building improves business park’s marketability: Construction bid awarded; local contraactor not happy with process,” Page 1A) had some interesting information as well.

Mr. (Matthew) Diaz of the Department of Economic and Community Development indicated that “because of the nature of the project, the bidding process was handled a bit differently to offer flexibility for the county, especially considering possible changes in the project during design and construction .... Even though the low bid was accepted, the county could make up some of the difference by asking for credits if some of the items were removed from the project.”

He was correct, it was handled differently, but not just “a bit differently”; in fact it was handled quite a bit differently than most contract bids.

The county issued an RFP (Request for Proposal), met with the approved contractors in a pre-proposal meeting that I attended. The county then issued two addendums to clarify the intention and requirements of the project. I have read both of these.

Lashley Construction was pre-approved in the RFP pre-approval process and thus by that process was an equally qualified bidding company.

But to then award the contract to another company for $499,700 (more) is not logical.

The county provided the information what they expected for the design and construction and to my knowledge all three companies complied.

That was the basis of the bids submitted. If the county wanted more or less at that point, they should have provided bid alternates.

This is simply a listing of work items that could be added or deleted and each contractor would have provided a money value to each line item as part of the bid process and after award.

This is a standard in the construction industry and construction contracts.

Without such a safeguard, the contractor can simply take advantage of these adds or deducts and in this bid process used by the county, they was no built in protection against unreasonable charges.

In other words the contractor basically has an “open checkbook” with checks already signed by the commissioners.

The process and selection was unfair and severely flawed from the start, when the Allegany County Department of Economic and Community Development informed Lashley they were not qualified.

That in itself is quite astonishing. Of course Lashley was then included and provided a professional, comprehensive and competitive proposal.

Please understand that I am not bashing the other contractors.

Both Carl Belt Inc. and Lashley Construction were equally qualified for the project. So what was the real reason you awarded the project to the substantially higher firm?

By the way, I understand that Commissioner Brodie did not vote in favor of this award as perhaps he considered his fiscal stewardship to the citizens of Allegany County in this matter.

Hope to hear from you soon.

James K. Cunningham

Cumberland

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