A confused Medford City Council rejected a bid to expand a police evidence building after three local construction companies cried foul over the process.
"What we've got here is a process, a situation, that I could not very well explain to my constituents about how we got here," Councilor Al Densmore said in the council's Thursday meeting.
Representatives from Batzer Construction, Vitus Construction and the Ausland Group charged that the city's biding process wasn't fair when city staff recommended the council approve the high bid of $474,000 from Adroit Construction.
Vitus' bid was $424,300, Ausland's was $441,777 and Batzer's was $459,420.
"You have four of the premier contractors in this county," said Medford attorney Richard Stark, who represented Vitus. "Stand up and take the lowest bid."
Mayor Gary Wheeler said he had no problems with three of the bids, but said Vitus didn't include the cost of permits in its proposal, while the other companies did.
"I'm really concerned about Vitus," he said.
The council rejected an ordinance that would have exempted the city from competitive bidding on the project.
A four-member committee rated the proposals using qualifications such as key personnel, track record, approach to the project and rates and expenses. The overall approach to the project received the most points followed by qualifications of key personnel, then rates, expenses and history.
Adroit came out on top in the scoring because it received the most points for qualifications, approach and track record. But Adroit came in last on rates and expenses.
Medford police wanted to hire a construction company that would both design and build the facility.
The council action means the police department will have to seek new bids for its project to add on to an existing 4,900-square-foot evidence center in west Medford that police officials say is rapidly running out of space.
The proposed addition includes a 1,400-square-foot storage area and two bays where vehicles suspected of involvement in crimes can be searched. The two-bay vehicle search area will free up a similar area in the existing building for evidence storage. Evidence must be retained for 50 years or more in certain violent crimes.
In response to a question from Densmore, Maintenance Supervisor Greg McKown attempted to explain that it could ultimately prove cheaper for the city to hire a single firm that would both design and build the project if there is a "fluid" dynamic in communication.
He said that in reviewing the different bid proposals, a committee of four city staff members concluded that Adroit best understood the project.
He told Densmore that in a design-build contract a high bid sometimes can turn into the lowest bid, or that the low bid can turn into the highest bid.
"Does that answer your question?" McKown asked Densmore.
"No," responded Densmore.
Kelsy Ausland, president of the Ausland Group, said she personally wrote the bid for her company. She said the council has four respected construction firms that have conducted business in the valley for decades.
She also said the city didn't make it clear that it was advertising for non-competitive bids.
"All I ask is that you treat us fairly," she said.
Bob Mayers with Adroit said the construction companies knew that the lowest price wasn't the only factor the city would be considering in awarding the bid.
"When they haven't liked the results, they want to change the rules," he said.
Many councilors said they had trouble trying to wrap their heads around the way the bidding process was conducted.
"I'm having a difficult time explaining this to my constituents," Councilor Chris Corcoran said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.