A local contractor is at odds with the City of Amarillo regarding the process used to award a recent contract for Bell Street area milling and overlay work, citing it “opens the door for inequality, discrimination and even possible corruption."  But city officials maintain the process enables the city to seek maximum benefit for services rendered.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting members voted 3-0, with Council member Elaine Hays delivering an abstention, to approve an agreement in which J. Lee Milligan, lnc. secured $1,104,726.85 for the project, which officials said would encompass the area comprised of Bell Street from 34th Avenue to Hillside Road, as well as drainage improvements at the intersection of Bell Street and 45th Avenue.

Mike Fuller, a principal in Amarillo-based Fuller and Sons Construction, voiced displeasure with the Best Value bid approach during the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting, noting the process resulted in the city paying $175,000 more in the award.

“How can Fuller be awarded the overlay project in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, submit a bid in 2018 that is $175,000 lower than the competitor, and have the same time frame? How is that a benefit for the taxpayers?” Fuller asked. “As a matter of record, the city violated state law Section 2269.154, when they did not open the bids publicly and now you are about to saddle the taxpayers with a bill that could have been $175,000 less. You have established a pattern of price and time not mattering as much as subjective interpretations of stacks of paper. Recently the city adopted a three-tier program for evaluating bids, which opens the door for inequality, discrimination and even possible corruption.”

Assistant City Manager - Development Services Floyd Hartman said the Best Value bid under Chapter 252 of Local Government Code provides alternative methods, noting pricing, as advertised in the bid document, is 50 percent of the evaluation of submittals, qualifications is 40 percent and 10 percent is timing.

“The prior mechanism was just based off of pricing,” Hartman said in comparing the former bid process to Best Value. “So you would evaluate pricing. If they were a qualified bidder and met the qualifications of the bid document, pricing was 100 percent of that evaluation. So if it was $1 dollar cheaper, that vendor was awarded that.”

He said under the Best Value method the expertise and qualities seen in the performance of jobs is evaluated in a positive way from recommendations.

“What we saw last year from this company (J. Lee Milligan, lnc.) on Buchanan, on Hillside, west of Bell and on Coulter can be considered in that evaluation, plus what they provide,” he said. “Who are they going to put on the job? Factors come in to that evaluation process. It provides the benefit to citizens that all of that consider in what is valuable to the community in the completion of the project. Not just the price. Price, qualifications and planning are evaluated to meet the best benefit of what the city needs.”

Hartman said a team of three city employees makes bid evaluations, which are then provided to the city’s purchasing department and bid recommendations are made based on the evaluations. He said the three staff members are identified prior to any bids being issued. With regard to bids being read aloud, Hartman offered the following response.

“There are different procurement rules that apply under different procedures,” Hartman said. “Under Chapter 252.041, reading aloud is a requirement, but this is an alternative method of 252.043. Under the alternatives and you have a Best Value bid, you have to base it off the evaluation of a team, not a read aloud bid.”

City Manager Jared Miller said the Best Value bid method was the city's lead option.

“Ultimately we are seeking the best value,” Miller said. “That’s the reason we’re using this bid format, because sometimes the lowest price wasn’t the lowest overall price. We wanted to ensure we were getting the best long term price. I think we can say if they’re (Fuller and Sons) not selected on this project, they can be selected in future projects. This project does not preclude future projects.”