Justice center contract awarded

Low bidder files to stop work on $41 million job

May 06, 1999|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The state awarded a $41 million contract yesterday to build a new Juvenile Justice Center in East Baltimore to a company whose offer was $1 million higher than a rival firm's price.

Within hours, the spurned bidder went to court seeking an order delaying construction of the the most expensive juvenile justice facility in state history.

The decision to award the contract to The Poole & Kent Co. of Baltimore came on a 2-1 vote by the Board of Public Works, with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Treasurer Richard N. Dixon outvoting Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

The board majority rejected a protest by Hyattsville-based W. M. Schlosser Co. Inc., which bid slightly more than $40 million. Schlosser had asked the board to delay action until its protest could be heard by an appeals board.

A hearing on Schlosser's request for an injunction blocking the Department of General Services from moving forward with construction could come today in Baltimore Circuit Court.

It would be highly unusual for the court to delay construction. Sandra K. Reynold, secretary to the Board of Public Works for most of the past two decades, said she recalls no instance in which a court issued an injunction blocking a contract award.

The long-delayed Juvenile Justice Center, designed to replace antiquated facilities in the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, has been in the works for almost a decade. The 240,700-square-foot facility will bring together courtrooms, social services, an intake center and a detention unit under one roof at the site of the former Hillen Tire outlet near Old Town Mall.

The state awarded the contract using criteria under which the technical merits of the proposal were given more weight than the monetary bid. The state's selection panel gave the Poole & Kent proposal higher marks for job training and minority business participation -- items that were given priority to win neighborhood support for the project.

"Poole & Kent's offer was determined to be most advantageous to the state," General Services Secretary Peta N. Richkus told the board. She urged the panel to deny Schlosser's request for a delay, saying it is "critical" that construction begin as quickly as possible.

Schaefer was not persuaded, blaming the department for the delays. "You took six months to get around to it. Now you want to rush it through in a day," he told Richkus.

Andrew Schlosser, president of the losing bidder, said his company met all of the state's requirements. "I think it's political," he said after the vote.

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