Though the plan was for Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration to issue by the end of January a Request for Qualifications for a program manager to oversee the nearly $1 billion MoveBR road improvement plan, the process has been slightly delayed as the administration conducts “a full review” of the procurement document it’s about to issue.
Director of Development Fred Raiford says he expects the RFQ to come out “in a matter of days, not weeks,” adding the delay was prompted by several factors. Among those is the recent addition of new Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill, who is now Raiford’s supervisor and is technically in charge of the process.
More importantly, however, administration officials have gotten a lot of feedback and questions over how the procurement document will be worded, how heavily price will be factored into the evaluation of the proposals, how much oversight it will give to local government, and the amount of required participation by small and minority-owned businesses, among other things.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve gotten any pressure, but there have been questions from a lot of people in the community,” Raiford says. “They’ve asked us to look at certain things, our processes and such, so we’re doing a full review. This is the mayor’s first time doing something of this magnitude and we want to make sure we do it right and are completely transparent.”
The program management contract, expected to be worth some $70 million to $80 million, has generated a lot of interest in local engineering and construction circles. There’s also been a healthy debate over whether the city should issue a Request for Proposals, which is ultimately based on price, or the RFQ, which takes other factors into consideration as well.
City officials have said because it’s a program management contract and not a construction contract, they believe the RFQ is the appropriate process.
Businessman Jim Bernhard—who, with developer Mike Wampold, campaigned for the mayor’s roads tax—has been following the developments. Though not especially concerned with what the procurement document is technically called, RFP or RFQ, he does say the process needs to be done correctly.
“We want to make sure it is open, transparent, and competitively bid because, by our estimate, it’s the largest contract that doesn’t include materials in the history of Baton Rouge,” he says. “So I’ve encouraged them to do their due diligence, take their time, and get all the information they possibly can on qualifications, pricing.
Bernhard, whose private equity firm Bernhard Capital Partners owns several companies that could bid on the contract, says none of them will do so.