One of the first dry dock contracts questioned

 

The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday declined action on a protest of one of the first contracts awarded for the Eastern Shipbuilding dry dock.

Technology Associates, Inc., based out of New Orleans, filed a formal protest of the award of a contract to Dewberry for engineering oversight services.

In effect, to be the engineering inspector for the design and construction of the floating dry dock; the county awarded the contract for the design as part of Tuesday’s consent agenda.

After more than a hour of discussion concerning the scoring of the proposals from Dewberry and TAI, commissioners, with little discussion moved ahead with awarding the contract to Dewberry.

But, that might not be the end of the matter.

A release the day before the meeting hinted that if the BOCC did not remedy the award, which the release contended, was based on the familiarity between county and Dewberry, litigation could follow.

Company representative Myles Thomas said Tuesday at the conclusion of the meeting that next steps would be up to company officials.

The county has no policy or ordinance covering a process for a bid protest, county attorney Jeremy Novak said.

That left it to commissioners, with wide latitude, to decide which of four paths Novak suggested to follow.

One, would be to agree to TAI’s request to submit all the paperwork to a third party for its assessment of the proposals; two, start the Request for Proposal over; three, accept TAI’s presentation and award the contract to TAI; or, four, award the contract, as recommended by county staff, to Dewberry.

The basis of TAI’s protest was its experience with floating dry docks, which Thomas contended Dewberry, while a large and highly-qualified civil engineering firm, lacked.

TAI, meanwhile, has extensive knowledge and experience with the exact sort of facility to be constructed off the bulkhead at the former paper mill site in Port St. Joe, Thomas said.

“We have the expertise,” Thomas said. “That’s the basis of our protest.”

Over 40 minutes county administrator Don Butler reviewed his review and scoring of the proposals.

The only written documentation is a page of notes Butler jotted down while going through the proposals.

Butler emphasized several times that he was not addressing an initial eight-page response from TAI or a 30-page follow-up document.

Thomas’ presentation, that 30-page document based on both proposals after a public record request for all county documents on the RFP, was in stark contrast to Butler’s summation.

Where Butler characterized as overly complex and dense responses to some areas abouit project approach and scope, TAI contended they provided a recitation of its expertise.

Several times Butler said the county was “not trying to build a rocket ship” but Thomas noted that a floating dry dock, which will have to lift as much as 10,000 long tons out of the water, is an animal all its own.

Butler also faulted TAI on various aspects of how the project would begin, play out and communications between stakeholders and the county, questioned conflicting statements in different sections of the proposal and said sections appeared to be “cut and paste” from other proposals.

Thomas, over 20 minutes, said Dewberry was unresponsive to several requests for explanations of expertise and experience in “analogous” projects, therefore disqualifying the proposal.

Instead it received higher scores.

“This demonstrates how the evaluation criteria was not applied objectively,” the presentation detailed in part.

Thomas’ final slides dealt with requests for key personnel on the project, and their relevant expertise in such a project as well as details of any related projects over the prior 10 years.

Dewberry’s key personnel lacked experience in floating dry docks, Thomas said, while TAI’s key players came with experience on dry dock projects.

And, Dewberry listed not a single “analogous” project in the prior 10 years, while TAI listed at least five, though Butler discounted three due to questions about whether the lead on the project was with TAI.

Thomas assured the board she was.

In both sections, Butler scored Dewberry higher than TAI.

Commissioner Ward McDaniel was the lone commenter on the board, moving to approve Butler’s recommendation to award the contract to Dewberry.

Commissioner David Rich seconded; the vote was unanimous.