Douglas County taxpayers will spend nearly $610,000 this year to completely replace the roof at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. But some area contractors say it could have been done for much less.
Mark Gwaltney, owner of Diamond Everley Roofing Contractors in Lawrence, said during the bid process that his company could have provided a similar roof with a comparable 30-year warranty for only $472,000, or about 23 percent less. But that proposal was not considered because of the unique selection process the county used for the roof project.
“It results in significantly higher prices for the owner,” Gwaltney said.
In March, Douglas County commissioners agreed not to seek competitive bids on the roof project, and instead to hire Garland Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, through a master contract available to local agencies through a government purchasing cooperative called U.S. Communities.
That cooperative is used by thousands of state and local governments in the United States, including the city of Lawrence and the Lawrence school district, for many types of contracts, including computers, office supplies, furniture and a wide range of other items.
Under its master roofing contract, Garland designs and manages the project, and it selects subcontractors to do the actual installation. But those subcontractors must agree to use Garland name-brand products for the vast majority of the materials, products that Garland officials themselves concede are more expensive than most other products on the market.
“There is a difference in the up-front installed cost,” said Frank Percaciante, contract manager for Garland. “That difference is usually made up for, and then exceeded by an additional 40 to 60 percent, because our roofs will last on average 10 to 12 years longer.”
Percaciante said Garland products are more expensive because they are manufactured to higher standards, and because built into the price is the cost of a 30-year warranty that includes complete maintenance and repair of the roof over that time, at no additional cost.
But Gwaltney disputed that argument, saying that other products on the market that meet the same specifications and come with the same 30-year warranty.
County officials said in March that they preferred using the U.S. Communities master contract, in part because roofing projects are complex, and also because evaluating competitive bids between rival manufacturers would require more expertise than the county has.
To hire an independent roofing consultant to set specifications, they said, would have been a major additional expense.
Gwaltney's company was not selected to install the roof because his bid, using Garland name-brand materials, came out to $706,137, according to the county's summary of bids. Gwaltney said he could have underbid Garland using other, comparable products.
The low bid of $609,970 came from Delta Innovative Solutions, a roofing company based in Kansas City, Kan.
County administrator Craig Weinaug said he was satisfied with the contract as well as the price, adding that the county has worked with Garland on roofing projects in the past and has had good experience with the company.