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Bidding snubs raise ire

Three prominent contractors have protested a recommendation by Medford officials to accept the most expensive bid to remodel the police evidence locker that houses everything from drugs to guns.

Batzer Construction, Vitus Construction and the Ausland Group sent the city letters charging the process wasn't fair and saying the public's best interests were ignored when the city chose a bid by Adroit Construction for $474,000.

Vitus' bid was $424,300, Ausland's was $441,777 and Batzer's was $459,420.

"What possible reason could there be in a contract as straightforward as this one to charge the taxpayers of this city the additional amount ..." wrote Vitus Construction's Medford attorney Richard Stark on March 19. "The tentative award of bid to Adroit Construction simply is not fair."

Stark stated that the construction firms bidding on the project are respected and successful enterprises that have operated in Southern Oregon for decades.

The Medford City Council on Thursday will consider whether to accept Adroit's bid, which was reviewed by a committee that rated the qualifications of each contracting firm. The committee included police Deputy Chief Randy Sparicino, Building Safety Director Chris Reising, Maintenance Supervisor Greg McKown and police Lt. Scott Clauson.

The 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. Adroit came in last on rates and expenses.

The city is claiming an exemption from the competitive bidding process because it wants to have the contractor design and build the additional space for the evidence locker.

The project is being paid for with $80,000 seized in drug arrests, $156,000 from a lottery fraud case and the remainder from the police capital budget.

Medford police Chief Tim George said the existing 4,900-square-foot evidence center in west Medford is rapidly running out of space.

The proposed addition includes a 1,400-square-foot storage area and two bays where vehicles involved 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. Evidence from murder cases is stored for 99 years. For the Jordan Criado murders, in which five family members were killed, the evidence takes up space on six shelves in the evidence center.

Blood evidence is stored in refrigerated units. Drugs and guns are locked up in separate rooms for greater security.

The police moved evidence storage from City Hall to the storage facility in 2000. George said he anticipates the remodel should provide enough space to store any new evidence for at least another 10 years.

A number of security measures, including cameras, fencing, lockers and protocols for handling evidence, are part of the design of the addition.

"It's not like any other building," George said.

The contractors who sent letters to the city each had slightly different reasons for protesting the awarding of the bid to Adroit.

City Attorney John Huttl responded to each of the protests in a document that will be reviewed by council Thursday.

Huttl said the city chose to exempt the project from the competitive bidding process because a design-build project would save the city staff time and could result in an overall cost savings for the project by having one contractor.

The city explained in a legal notice published in the Mail Tribune that the project was "to be awarded to the respondent who proposes the most beneficial proposal to the public and the city of Medford."

Russ Batzer, president of Batzer Construction, stated, "The city of Medford did not accord respondents fair and equal treatment with respect to any opportunity for discussion or revisions of proposals ..."

Huttl responded to Batzer's comments by stating the city didn't feel any discussions with contractors were necessary as part of its review.

Kelsy Ausland, president of the Ausland Group, stated the city did not provide enough information to support the conclusion the project was exempted from the competitive bidding process. Ausland specifically cited Oregon Administrative Rule 137-049-0630, which requires an agency to notify bidders in advance that the contract will be exempted from competitive bidding.

Huttl responded that the city is not bound by the Oregon Administrative Rule but by Medford Municipal Code 2.563, adding the request for proposal process doesn't require an exemption from competitive bidding be announced in advance.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

Medford police Chief Tim George says the existing 4,900-square-foot evidence facility in west Medford is rapidly running out of space. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell