Consultant Had Big Role in Court Decision
$38 million court facility decision guided by more than 150 pages of previously confidential reports.
Previously confidential documents released yesterday by the Fredericksburg City Manager's Office show how consultants guided city leaders through a complicated evaluation process to select the developer of a new $38 million downtown court facility.
The consulting firm Arcadis was hired by the city back in October to chart a course for city leaders during the process and provide evaluations of each of the eight proposals submitted by five design/build teams. To this end, the firm produced two exhaustive assessments of the proposals, once at the outset of the negotiations in May, and again in June after the City Council narrowed the field from eight to three options.
The Arcadis reports have been the subject of controversy for months now. The reports had been hidden under a cloak of confidentiality as Fredericksburg Mayor Thomas Tomzak, along with City Attorney Kathleen Dooley and Arcadis consultant insisted that the information contained within the reports (and other procurement documents) could harm the city's position at the bargaining table.
Despite protests from members of City Council, journalists and local activists, the documents had remained confidential until yesterday, when City Manager Beverly Cameron signed off on a contract with winning design/build team First Choice Public Private Partners to move ahead with the project.
The initial Arcadis report provided city leaders with a rundown on the companies behind the design build teams. City leaders were privy to confidential summaries of each company's construction and design experience, financial health, pending and previous lawsuits, management approach and references, among others.
Much of the reports are taken up by charts and tables which try to compare each proposal across a set of standardized criteria.
Among the rejected teams, Clancy and They's Construction Company was critiqued for lacking experience in a number of areas, having a high credit score, lack of clarity in its management approach, safety performance.
Donley's/HDR team, which proposed three different options, received high marks for experience, received critiques over it's financial health and legal history.
Arcadis' initial report express concerns about the phasing and impact of First Choice's Scheme 2, the eventual winning proposal. Highlighted as a negative was First Choice's plan which requires shuffling around city offices in Executive Plaza as the court facility is constructed.
Contract winner FirstChoice Public Private Partners team also received high marks in design experience for their team's background building courthouses. According to Arcadis' report, FirstChoice's Design Project Manager John Moore had designed more than 40 courthouses, two of them LEED certified. This is contrasted with critiques over the team's relative lack of experience with courthouse construction experience and with projects of a similar size.
Financially, FirstChoice was critiqued for having only a "fair" credit rating, with above average financial stress.
First Choice was also criticized for its safety performance. Responses to confidential questions submitted to First Choice Public Private Partners during the City Council's evaluation of proposed court facility concepts show that the design-build team was cited for eight OSHA workplace safety violations in the last three years.
FirstChoice's references could have been kinder as well. Officials with Roanoke County, former clients of Moseley Architects, told Arcadis of "many problems with architect", saying that design flaws took "too long to fix", and that they used a less experienced than promised on their $26 million court facility.
"Not team players - pointed fingers", reads one summary of Arcadis' discussion with Roanoke County officials
The second review provided by Arcadis examined the options remaining after the City Council culled the choices down to three proposed by W.M. Jordan, First Choice, and Donley's
First Choice was praised again for their previous experience, but caution was expressed over the fact that team members English Construction and Moseley Architects had not done a design/build courthouse project together before.
First Choice's design was praised for its exterior appearance and the inclusion of space for the city sheriff's office. It was criticized for being a two building solution with mostly windowless courtrooms.
On cost, First Choice's option was criticized for needing at least $1,000,000 in land acquisition, lower end interior finishes, and the permanent relocation of the city's drug court to an undetermined leased space.
When it came to "Overall Project Benefit", First Choice was the only one of the three to not receive a negative bullet item. "Overall Project Benefit" is also what the City Council said, somewhat predictably, was the most important factor in picking a design/build team.
While the Arcadis reports contain no explicit endorsement of any proposal, it didn't take long after the September meeting for the City Council to settle on First Choice's Scheme 2. The City Council gave preliminary approval to the First Choice scheme during a closed work session in late September.