My turn: Awarding incentives to finish school sets a bad precedent

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just what part of the bid process does the city of Juneau not understand? The Empire article on the Thunder Mountain High School (Nov. 21) states the city of Juneau is going to award Coogan Construction up to $700,000 more to finish the project on time. For those unfamiliar with the bid process, when a bid is awarded to a contractor, the bid contract states that a project will be done on a specified date for a specified sum or penalties will be imposed on the contractor. Did I miss something here? Wasn't this project short of funds to complete and the taxpayers were asked to vote on additional bonding? If there was a shortage of funds, where did this $700,000 come from?

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This city has a long history of selling us projects and then coming back for more money to finish them. Isn't it time someone took the heat for this? Awarding additional incentives to bring a project in on time is a very bad precedent. Won't that be expected by a contractor next time? I am outraged that the city would throw common bid practice out the window and offer this incentive.

Coogan Construction has been doing business around here for a long time and knows the pitfalls of dealing with weather delays. If the bid they gave didn't have contingency costs for bad weather figured in then shame on Coogan. It wasn't like they had a lot of competition for the bid. The taxpayers should not have to shoulder the costs of bad bidding on their part, nor bad administration on the city's part.

The School Board is all worried about getting the school open on time and the lack of communication between the parties. Shouldn't they be concerned about what part of the project is going to be cut to cover this incentive? Or were the taxpayers sold a bill of goods about the cost over-runs by all concerned on this ill fated project and knew ahead of time this might happen?

Low-balling projects to get the voters to approve them seems to be the status quo at the local Puzzle Palace.

I also would like to know who made this decision to award the extra money. Engineering director Roger Healey did not make this decision on his own. The city manager and the Assembly had to be, or should have been, in on the decision. If that is the case, why wasn't there any public discussion on the matter?

This taxpayer intends to answer that at election time and express my displeasure at this decision. What concerns me most about the deception and mishandling of this project and others is the projects on the horizon. How much extra are we going to be asked to pay for the new Mendenhall Valley pool? It is way past time for the taxpayers to start holding city officials accountable for their inept handling of these projects.

If people are wondering why our taxes keep going up they need to look no further than city hall and the Assembly chambers. This taxpayer is sick and tired of paying for the city administration's inability to do its job. Lets hold some feet to the fire and get some answers folks. Either that or open your wallet wide. And by all means, remember this the next time a bond proposal is presented.

• John Niemi is a Douglas resident and retired city employee.

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