A Grants Pass construction company asserts it is unfairly losing the contract for the new Medford airport control tower even though it offered the lowest overall price.

A Grants Pass construction company asserts it is unfairly losing the contract for the new Medford airport control tower even though it offered the lowest overall price.

"Adroit did not, indeed, submit the lowest bid," said Aaron Ausland, president of Ausland Builders.

Ausland said his company offered some cost-cutting alternatives by researching to find a cheaper air conditioning system and elevator that he said were ignored by Jackson County officials in the bidding process, even though the products met all specifications.

"And that's not fair," he said.

Both the county and Adroit disagreed with Ausland, saying that it is within county officials' discretion to select the lowest so-called base bid and that it is a common practice throughout the country.

"That's their prerogative," said Bob Mayers, chief executive officer at Adroit Construction of Ashland.

Airport director Bern Case said, "The county reserves the right to take the base bid, and that's what we did."

Out of five base bids, Adroit Construction's was the lowest at $3,575,000, which is still about $800,000 over budget. Adroit is also building the new airport passenger terminal.

Vitus Construction Co. of Gold Hill offered the next lowest bid at $3,610,000, then Ausland at $3,630,000.

However, in addition to the base bid, the county asked contractors to find alternate prices on some components like the air conditioning system. These were listed separately and are frequently part of the bid process throughout the U.S.

Ausland said his company offered $121,700 in savings from alternate products while Adroit provided about $4,500.

If those savings were taken into account, Ausland said his company would be the cheapest of all five bids by about $60,000.

"If you're going to the public and you were $800,000 over budget, why not take the deductions they specifically asked the contractor to provide," he said.

With a bid so far over contract, Ausland said he wonders why county officials would even think of selecting another company.

"There is some funny money crunching going on here," he said.

Ausland said the county would be better off asking for new bids based on the changed specifications. With a project that is now costing more, he said it would help attract other bidders and create a process that would better serve the public.

Mayers of Adroit said the county did nothing wrong in choosing his company.

"Under the public bidding law the government has the right to select the base bid," he said.

He said that on other jobs he's bid against with Ausland he's either won or lost because of the base bid.

"We're two for two," he said, referring to winning two bids in Ashland while Ausland won two others recently. "We've been on both sides of it."

Mayers said organizations awarding the bid also have the discretion to include some of the alternate bids when awarding the contract.

The county hasn't yet awarded a contract with Adroit, but it has been negotiating with the company to bring the bid down by about $800,000.

Mayers said he is confident that the overall price of the tower will approach the budgeted amount of $2.8 million. The tower is 100-feet tall and federal funding will pay for it. It will replace the existing tower by early 2009.

Expensive ceramic panels specified in the original bid will have to be changed and many of the "green" features of the building will have to be tabled to bring costs down.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.