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Bowie State student center contract passes after drawing Franchot’s fire

ANNAPOLIS — Seeing that bids from experienced companies were more than $400,000 cheaper, Comptroller Peter Franchot voted against a contract for Holder Construction Co. to do construction management for a new student center at Bowie State University.

The contract was ultimately passed at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, with Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp voting for it.

Franchot said that he “talked himself into voting against” the contract as he questioned representatives from the University System of Maryland about their selection of Holder. Atlanta-based Holder received the highest ranking from the university system’s procurement team, but, at nearly $2.35 million, was not the least expensive. Two companies that the university system has done quite a lot of work with — Gilbane Building Co. and Skanska USA Building Inc. — put in lower bids, but did not receive the job. Gilbane’s bid was $392,370 lower, and Skanska’s was $484,501 less.

Based on the track record the state has with those two companies, Franchot said he could not understand why the university did not choose either of them.

“Come on, guys. This is real money. It’s a lot of it,” Franchot said. Noting that Skanska’s bid was almost a fifth less than Holden’s, Franchot said that the chosen contract was “20 percent higher than it should be.”

James Stirling, procurement director at University of Maryland, College Park, and Enrique Salvador, assistant director of capital projects at the College Park campus, both defended the process that was used to select Holder. Salvador said that he has worked with Gilbane extensively, and he agrees that it is a capable company.

However, he said, the evaluation was done for the specific project. Cost was a factor — but not the only important one.

The technical analysis, which was weighted the heaviest, included looking at the team experience of firms, and how well they worked together, Stirling said. Other components of the technical analysis were experience of the firm, its experience with LEED-certified projects, project planning, and the economic benefit to the state.

Stirling and Salvador said they understood Franchot’s concern, but they stood behind the evaluation committee’s selection.

“We believe this is the best value for the university,” Salvador said.