A proposal by Kansas University for a $4.75 million bus maintenance and storage facility received stiff questioning before the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday, and an allegation of improper bidding surfaced.
KU officials denied there was anything wrong with the bidding process, and in the end, the regents, in a 5-3 vote, approved giving KU authority to enter a contract to build the facility.
The dispute is over a proposal by KU to enter into a contract with Advanco for purchase of property and construction of the facility in Timberedge Industrial Park, which is near the intersection of North Iowa Street and Lakeview Road in northern Lawrence.
Under the proposal, the new facility will be used for both KU and city of Lawrence buses. Theresa Gordzica, chief business and financial planning officer for KU, said negotiations are continuing on the contract, although the price cannot exceed $4.75 million.
But Regent Gary Sherrer said there were too many loose ends on the deal.
“It seems to me we are a month ahead of where we should be,” he said.
For instance, he said, it hasn’t been determined how much the city is going to contribute to the project.
It was revealed during the meeting, that while KU said its current bus facility near 31st Street and Haskell Avenue was inadequate, the school also has been told that its facility does not comply with city codes. Gordzica said this was because the facility is gravel and not paved.
Some regents members said that because KU had identified how it will pay for the project, the city may back off its funding commitment. Gordzica said the facility will be paid out of fund balances and replenished with student parking and transit fees.
But Regent Richard Hedges said he was satisfied the city would not try to take advantage of KU.
“You don’t want to poke the bear on the hill and stiff them,” he said.
The five regents who supported KU’s proposal were Jarold Boettcher, Christine Downey-Schmidt, Dan Lykins, Janie Perkins and Hedges. Opposed were Jill Docking, Donna Shank and Sherrer, who all said they would have rather delayed the action until January’s meeting.
A letter also emerged from another bidder on the facility during the meeting.
In that letter, Stan Zaremba of Zarco Inc. of Lawrence, said that in the requests for proposals on the project, “it was our understanding that a purchase of property for the facility was not financially feasible.”
He said KU also failed to say whether the lowest bidder was chosen.
“We object to the award of this contract as being contrary to Kansas law,” he said in the letter.
But in reply, Gordzica said in a letter to the regents that the requests for bids did include several options, including purchase of the facility.
Gordzica said proper procedures were followed in analyzing the bids of various vendors. And she said state law allowed KU to pick the vendor that best met KU’s needs. In addition to cost, KU considered the location of the site in relation to KU and city transit service areas, and safe access to major streets, she said.