Convention center bidding process challenged


A Spokane electric company has filed a restraining order against the general contractor of the Spokane Convention Center expansion project, saying $4 million worth of work was awarded to the wrong company.

Power City Electric filed the restraining order in Spokane County Superior Court last week, stating that Hoffman Bouten Joint Venture should not award the electrical work to Energized Electric, another Spokane company. The motion states that Power City should be awarded the work.

A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Spokane County Courthouse. The Spokane Public Facilities District, which owns the Convention Center and is overseeing the expansion, is not named as a defendant.

At issue is how the general contractor handled the bidding process. Power City was the low bidder when the bids were first opened. However, some work was cut out of the contract and the two companies were asked to submit new bids, which both did. The second time around, Energized Electric won the job, by about $50,000, said Dave Garske, operations manager for Hoffman Bouten.

Washington law prevents contractors from “shopping” for bids on public works contracts, Power City said in its motion. The motion says that the general contractor publicly read both electrical bids, allowing Power City’s competitor to know the details of its bid. The motion also accuses Hoffman Bouten of never officially rejecting Power City’s original bid.

Hoffman Bouten “failed to follow the statutory provisions for the bidding process,” the motion reads. Public works contracts require that the work be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder.

Dave Garske, operations manager for Hoffman Bouten, said Power City was the low bidder the first time around, but the bids came in higher than expected. The engineers and architects on the project reworked the bid package to cut out about $600,000 worth of work then put the bid package out again, Garske said.

“It’s their opinion it was a bid extension. It’s our opinion that we re-bid the work,” Garske said. “They’re making claims and not stating facts. They did not contest the process that they participated in. They contested it after the fact because they’re apparently not satisfied with the results.”

A representative of Power City declined to comment on the legal action. Energized Electric did not return two calls seeking comment.

This legal hurdle is the latest challenge for the $80 million public works project. The project architects, contractors and engineers have been working for more than a month to cut costs in the $55 million construction budget since they discovered that the project was coming in more than $8 million over budget.

The convention center expansion will include a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall attached to the existing Convention Center in downtown Spokane. The center is scheduled to be completed by mid-2006, just in time for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will be held there in January 2007.

Garske said if the electrical bid is awarded by the end of January, the project will remain on schedule.


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