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VOL. 125 | NO. 120 | Tuesday, June 22, 2010

County Awards New Design Contract for Admin Building

By Andy Meek

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Shelby County government is drawing up a new contract for renovation of the Vasco Smith Administration Building, 160 N. Main St., after deciding not to work with the first vendor chosen for the project.

The county’s new vendor for the engineering and design services involved in renovating the county government building is a team led by architectural firms Archimania and Self Tucker Architects Inc.

The decision to award the contract to the new team involved a series of events that seemed convoluted and puzzled a few members of the Shelby County Commission, who voted on the new contract Monday.

The commission in February first approved a resolution authorizing the county mayor to sign a contract with the architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss Architects Inc. A contract was then drawn up but never signed and executed.

That’s because LRK filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the day after the commission vote.

It prompted the county to ask the firms that bid on it the first time to submit new proposals for the project, the details of which changed slightly the second time around.

And even though LRK has now emerged from bankruptcy, the firm was not the low bidder after the second batch of proposals was submitted to the county.

And its emergence from bankruptcy did not sway the commission to allow the firm to keep the project, even though LRK principal Frank Ricks and a few commissioners expressed concern over how the process unfolded.

“I think they would (both) do a fine job,” commissioner Mike Carpenter said of LRK and the joint team that ultimately won the contract. “That said, I’m uncomfortable with how this proceeded.”

Commissioner Mike Ritz, who sided with commissioners in authorizing the new contract, concurred.

“This was about the most peculiar set of circumstances I’ve ever seen,” Ritz said.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa Kelly told commissioners in committee last week the bankruptcy was a factor in the county reopening the bid process. One of two companion resolutions before the commission about the renovation project also made note of LRK’s bankruptcy.

Ritz pointed out, by way of ending the discussion, that the county mayor is the sole contracting agent for the county. And he said the commission is not in a position to select vendors for the mayor even if they think a process may have unfolded unfairly.

“If the mayor doesn’t want to sign a contract, he doesn’t have to,” Ritz said. “I suspect but for the bankruptcy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. (The county) changed their mind about who they wanted to hire, and we’ve got to move on with the project.”

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149