By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Six of seven Killeen councilmen spoke in favor of awarding a $5.7 million contract to a local developer over the lower bid of an outside contractor at Tuesday's council workshop, a move that went against the recommendation of the project designer.
Though it's not finalized until the council votes on the matter in regular session, it appears all but certain that longtime Killeen-area developer Purser Construction will win the bid for the planned $5.7 million aquatic center. Purser's bid was $225,000 more than Austin-based Workman Commercial.
The councilmen said they have an established working relationship with the Pursers, but more importantly, the funding will stay local.
"He is a local contractor who we are all familiar with," Councilman Kenny Wells said. "I believe that pumping several million dollars back into our local economy far outweighs the little more that it'll cost us."
Several councilmen expressed confidence in the company's ability to build the facility even though this may be the first aquatic center the company has built.
Gary Purser said he's up to the challenge.
"If an architect can put it on a set of plans, by God, I can build it," Purser said.
Gary Purser Jr., who spoke to the council, said after the meeting that the company has more than $14 million in projects currently under construction in Killeen and Temple; this project is well within the company's capabilities.
Councilman Billy Workman opposed awarding the higher bidder.
"We're talking about the taxpayers' money; that's $225,000 that we're just throwing out in the trash," Workman said. "There are hard-working people around here. ... I don't agree with it and I won't vote for it."
After evaluating the two bids, project designer Adam Brewster with Kimley-Horn and Associates recommended the council award the bid contract to Workman Commercial because of the lower price and its experience in building water parks.
"I have worked with Workman construction on two other aquatic projects (in Texas), and they performed in an acceptable manner," Brewster said. "On an aquatics project of this size, we want to have a pool contractor (with experience building this type of project)."
Brewster said the base bid of Purser Construction was $5.853 million.
City Manager Connie Green said that bid exceeded the amount of funding the city had set aside for the project by $68,000, but it could be covered by tweaking the budget allocations.
Brewster said, "Another condition of the bid was to provide references on similar pool projects. No recent projects or construction projects were mentioned (by Purser Construction) ? We find no reason that the city of Killeen should not award the low bidder with the project."
The city has no legal obligation to select the low bidder since the state Legislature allows a 5 percent buffer for local contractors. City Attorney Kathy Davis said the council would have to state in writing why it believed the higher bid would be a better deal for the city.
Workman Commercial's president and chief executive officer Kyle Workman attended Tuesday's workshop to plead his case to be awarded the contract. He said the policy of a 5 percent window is not fair to outside bidders, and does not lend to a future of competitive bidding if the city gets a reputation for favoring local contractors.
Workman added that money for the local company does not guarantee money for Killeen, noting that he believes a great number of those dollars would be spent in the area, and the local economy would still get most of those dollars back.
He added that his company simply has more experience with a specialized project of this type since it has built aquatic centers like this in the past.
"Workman will engage a lot of contractors from the city of Killeen," Workman said. "I estimate that we spend a great deal of money on shopping and eating in the area (and local subcontractors)."
"We have relevant project experience," Workman added. "Mr. Purser clearly lacks the relevant pool experience. This project is intricate, complex and requires experience to deliver it on time and under budget."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568.