Roswell City Council has approved signing a nearly $3 million contract with Medallion Athletics for seven synthetic turf fields that are to be installed by early spring.
After a lengthy discussion and public hearing at the Monday night council meeting, five council members voted in favor of approval, while Councilwoman Betty Price voted against signing the contract.
Price questioned the city's process for selecting its recommended vendors, considering cost only factored in at 20 percent of the equation for making a recommendation. The majority of how a committee of five staff members came to their decision on the best vendor for the job was based upon specific qualifications, similar project experience, project understanding and methodology of how they would install, according to the city.
"Medallion [Athletics] was superior to competing firms," said Director of Finance Keith Lee, who was on the committee which recommended the vendor.
Lee said advice from neighboring cities, schools and others who had previously installed athletic turf fields - a new venture for Roswell - was also taken into account.
Despite the fact that Medallion's bid came in approximately $380,000 over the next highest of the four cost estimates - even after they went back and changed the specifications of the product that was to be installed to a less expensive alternative - the committee felt that the chosen vendor's process for installation would "reduce the risk for change orders" and corrective measures down the road.
Initially, the committee chose its recommended vendor without knowing where any of the vendors came in on price, said Jeff Pruitt, administrator of park services. Staff only negotiated with Medallion for a lower quote because it had already chosen them as the most advantageous candidate.
But nearly every speaker and even another vendor whose bid was not recommended took issue with the process that lead to choosing a much more expensive vendor.
Resident Trent Moore asked the council to scratch its current recommendation and hire an expert, such as an architect, to conduct a more thorough review process.
City staff is great, but they have no experience in choosing an artificial turf installation vendor, he said.
A Sprinturf representative, whose company had also turned in a bid, said he had never seen a customer forego using an architect in its search for vendor proposals.
But in the end, most city council members backed up staff's recommendation, pointing out Medallion's added expense came from being able to better deal with unique Roswell field challenges, such as drainage issues.
"We want the best price, but the cheapest is not always the best,” said Councilman Kent Igleheart.
Councilwoman Nancy Diamond said she believed staff had done its due diligence in recommending the vendor they believed would install the best quality product that would endure in the long run.
"I don't want to have a problem three years from now, five years from now, seven years from now," added Councilman Jerry Orlans.
Riled by the idea that the public believed an unfair or biased advantage had been given to Medallion, Councilwoman Becky Wynn went as far as to point out that Sprinturf had tried to contact Mayor Jere Wood over the weekend in hopes of enacting "a backroom deal." Wood quickly interjected that he never had any communication with any of the vendors, including Sprinturf, but did say they could have e-mailed him since he hadn't checked it before the meeting.
The city will pay for the fields from $1.5 million set aside in the fiscal year 2013 budget and $2 million approved by bond voters during November. The project still comes in over $500,000 under budget, even with the higher bid.