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Siemens questions renovation contract

Rehashing plans to renovate the 75-year-old courthouse and the vacant 60’s-era jail across the street took more than an hour Monday night during the Harrison County Council’s regular planning session. At times it became a hot debate.
Apparently questions were raised in a letter that some or all of the seven council members had received from a company whose proposal was rejected.
Three companies had submitted proposals to redo the buildings in response to a request by the three county commissioners. The proposals ranged from the high of $4.4 million by Performance Service Inc. of Indianapolis to a low of $4.1 million from Siemens Building Technologies Inc., also of Indianapolis.
After reviewing the proposals at length, the commissioners ranked the proposals and read their first and second choices aloud at the April 21 meeting. Cost was not the only factor; the commissioners based their choices on other elements as well, such as the firm’s ability to implement the program, their background, qualifications, technical approach, and financial considerations.
All three commissioners put Performance Services at the top, followed by Siemens, the company which first told the commissioners in 1997 about the state law that allows government entities to enter into performance-based contracts through proposals rather than bids.
Energy savings that would be realized as a result of the project are backed by the company’s bonded guarantee. Should the energy savings fall short, the company must make up the difference, explained architect Joe Mrak of RQAW of Indianapolis, the county’s consulting firm. Mrak’s valuation criteria favored Siemens, which had 97 points to the other two’s 87 rating.
Mrak stressed: ‘It’s not my money; it’s not my decision; it’s not me who has to live in this county and deal with it.’
In reaching their decision, the commissioners left Siemens open as the second choice should Mrak be unable to reach satisfactory contract negotiations with Performance Services.
In the letter to council members, Siemens business development leader, Jeffrey L. Metcalf, pointed out that its high score was due to several factors. He questioned, ‘Why were we not selected, even though our proposal was more comprehensive, our price lower and our references more complete? Not to mention, we scored the highest as determined by your consultant on the published evaluation criteria.’
Metcalf expressed concern that Performance had made a copy of Siemens’ proposal shortly after it was submitted to the auditor’s office.
‘This gave PSI an extremely unfair advantage to counter our proposal during the evaluation process,’ Metcalf said.
Yesterday, Metcalf said he understands the argument that the proposals were considered a public record, but that’s a legal matter open for interpretation.
‘We would have appreciated a chance to have dialogue once the proposals were opened,’ Metcalf said, adding: ‘I don’t believe there is anything improper.
‘Everyone was honestly trying to do what they thought was best,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk face-to-face.’
After many of the questions from the council to Mrak Monday night seemed based on statements in Siemens’ letter, Auditor Pat Wolfe told the council she had not received a copy and asked if it shouldn’t be part of the public record. ‘I think I would be remiss as the auditor not to bring it up,’ she said.
Although Metcalf was in the audience and said he did not object to the letter being included in the public record, council chair Gary Davis said it was nothing more than comments, and he didn’t think it should be included in the public record.
Wolfe countered: ‘It’s part of the public discussion.’
Davis said he would consult with the council’s attorney but didn’t bring up the subject again.
The council was not expected to approve funding for the contract Monday night, but it will be on the council agenda May 12.
That’s not all that’s on the council’s plate that night.
Some $7.5 million in projects to be paid for with riverboat revenue will be decided, including revenue sharing of $442,831 and $51,743 in infrastructure funds for Harrison County’s 10 towns; $4 million for the highway department ($3 million for blacktop and $1 million for contractual services); $150,000 for Blue River Services area transportation study; $810,000 for highway equipment; $500,000 for the Harrison County Public Library to renovate the unused portion of the former bank building it has purchased; $2 million for education projects; $6,000 for mosquito control; $54,000 for a plat numbering system update; $51,270 for an economic development wastewater/stormwater study; $100,000 to purchase fuel for county use, and $22,000 to pay off two trucks purchased by the parks department.
As of Monday, the county’s riverboat funds totaled $19.6 million. The county has now reached its $24 million cap, so additional funds aren’t expected until August, a month after the next fiscal year begins, Wolfe said.