Turf low bidder objects, superintendent defends

The bright new turf at McIntosh High School’s stadium. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The story so far: Fayette school chief bypasses 3 lower bids to select turf provider for 4 stadiums; low bidder’s story told on Fox 5 TV; Barrow defends award, but slams bidder, TV report

A story last week in The Citizen about the “turf war” between Atlanta television station Fox 5 and the Fayette County Board of Education over bid proposals to install turf at four high schools included the brief mention of an unsuccessful bidder. That bidder wanted to have his say and The Citizen agreed.

The story published in The Citizen noted comments in the Fox 5 report saying the station repeatedly attempted to reach the school board about the turf bid and was ignored. Meantime, Superintendent Jody Barrow issued a letter to parents and staff, taking issue with the report and saying Fox 5 chose to “make” the news rather than “reporting” on it.

John Bogosian, chief operating officer of Sprinturf, one of the unsuccessful bidders and the low bidder, was the vendor featured in the Fox 5 story. In a letter to the editor he took issue with The Citizen story. He said there were a number of inaccuracies in the story and in Barrow’s letter to faculty and parents.

Barrow in the March 29 letter said a vendor (Sprinturf) who did not win the bid approached the media to push an agenda that was self-serving, which prompted the Fox 5 story. “We are the second metro Atlanta system that has been singled out by this particular vendor with a story airing on Fox 5 News,” Barrow said. Bogosian disagreed.

“Chief among these inaccuracies is Superintendent Barrow’s comment that Sprinturf approached the media to push an agenda that was self-serving,” Bogosian said. “Sprinturf did not approach the media and this was part of an on-going story the media was conducting on biased, unexplainable procurement practices by public entities that waste millions of dollars of taxpayers money.”

Bogosian continued, “Seems like that’s the story (The Citizen) should also be interested in publishing to inform the citizens of Fayette County of the waste that is happening in their own community. Nowhere in the country do we see these unexplained waste of public dollars driven by poor public procurement practices with no oversight.”

Pertaining to the procurement process, Barrow in the letter said, “(Fox 5) made a big deal about the school system’s lack of response, when in fact all documents and information requested through the (Georgia) Open Records Request act were supplied.”

Barrow in the letter said the school system has specific bid polices in place that are in compliance with state law, and is compelled to follow them. While the policies point to the lowest bidder, they also state that the lowest price alone will not be the sole determining criteria in the selection process, said Barrow.

“During the bid review process, it became clear that the lowest bid was not the best bid. Many times the low bid can turn out to be more expensive in the long run,” Barrow said. “The review committee felt this was the case with this request for proposal, and ultimately made the recommendation of the best bid to the superintendent. After reviewing the process, the superintendent found the review committee’s work to be in line with Fayette County’s Board of Education policies, and made the recommendation to the board to proceed.”

Bogosian said it seemed that the school board would have covered the fact that one of the bids was $500,000 lower and mentioned that in a public meeting. The bid by Sprinturf was $500,000 lower than the bid awarded to Precision Turf.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Sanders last week noted several reasons why the lower bidders received lower scores and were not selected for the turf contract. Among those were contractual concerns about future maintenance issues, drainage technology with the drainage fabric, project plans and timelines and references obtained by calling other non-listed school systems for whom the bidders had done work.

Bogosian also maintained that a performance bond is a part of the required proposal.

Pertaining to the Fox 5 report noting the absence of a performance bond by winning bidder Precision Turf and the statement by Bogosian that a lack of that bond would be an automatic disqualifier, Sanders agreed that, initially, Precision did not include the bond but did subsequently provide it to the school system.

Noting that while not supplying a performance bond is not an automatic disqualifier, Sanders said Precision would have been disqualified if it had not provided the bond.

Bogosian said he wrote a letter to the school system after the bid was awarded, asking a number of questions pertaining to the process involved in awarding the bid.

“I didn’t receive a response,” he said.

It should be noted that in Bogosian’s letter to the editor he noted that the initial article incorrectly stated that the Precision bid was $500,000 “less than” than the Sprinturf bid. The term “less than” was changed to “more than” within several hours after being posted online and the correction was also included in the Saturday print edition.

The company scores and bids for the turf fields were, from low to high:

• Sprinturf Inc. – 93 – $2.57 million

• Shaw Sports Turf – 90 – $2.7 million

• Greenfields USA – 84 – $2.87 million

• Precision Turf – 96 – $3.06 million

• Sports Turf Co. – 95 – $3.08 million

• Deluxe Athletics – 94 – $3.17 million

• Field Turf USA – 93 – $3.26 million

• Hellas Const. – 82 – $3.4 million

Precision Turf, in the middle of the pack, was awarded the contract.