Monday, July 25, 2011

Mayor Jones and Sheriff Woody Urge Approval of Jail Project

~City Council scheduled to vote today~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones and Sheriff C.T. Woody today urged approval of the Richmond City Jail Project which is scheduled for a vote before City Council tonight. Addressing many of the concerns that have been raised, Mayor Jones went through each item one by one and gave the Administration's response.

Key in this matter is the degree of flexibility allowed in the state-established PPEA (Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act) process. Mayor Jones emphasized that PPEAs are competitive negotiation procurements and are more flexible than a competitive sealed bidding procurement. Richard Sliwoski, Director of General Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia explained that, "The PPEA process was set up specifically to be outside of the public procurement act. We want the private sector to bring its creativity and experience to address public needs. There is nothing that prevents a public entity from re-evaluating a requirement in its Request for Proposals. The public entity can decide it wants to accept a proposed change as a better way of approaching a project. Again, the PPEA process was designed for maximum flexibility for all parties."

Questions concerning the height of the building, the minority business participation plan, site selection, finances, and negotiating with one firm were all addressed in the following statement from Mayor Jones:

"This is not a new issue for our City. We've been struggling with the need for a new jail for more than a decade. When I started this process to get a new jail built for the City of Richmond, it wasn't a popular undertaking. A new jail is not a stylish issue. It's a matter that comes with built-in objections. It's not a feel-good issue at all. And, it's not the issue of my administration that I want to have to fight for; but it is the issue that I must fight for because change in this area is so important to the overall future of our city.

"No one has been more focused on the size and quality of this jail than me. I recall when I first made it clear that I would not build a bigger jail to just keep warehousing people - I recall that I had to prove my point then that we could actually build a smaller jail if we gave the right attention to the needs of those being housed at the jail.

"No one rallied with me for a smaller jail. But I stood fast, I proved my point, I called for a smaller jail (almost 1000 beds smaller in fact) and others were brought around to seeing the vision of us as a city that could begin to effectively address the needs of those being housed at the jail while keeping out of jail certain non violent offenders and individuals suffering from mental health problems who didn’t need to be in jail.

"We proved our point and since then, with the superb help of the Commonwealth's Attorney, we’ve gotten the mental health docket up and running. Some of our alternative programs like electronic monitoring have begun and we have begun to actually address the real needs of people rather than just locking everyone up. We've also worked with the affected community around the current jail and helped to develop a vision wherein our new jail facility will help produce different outcomes for people's lives and for the surrounding community.

"We want this to be a facility that actually yields positive results…a Justice Center, rather than a facility that drains resources and pulls a community downward. We believe we are on the right road for the outcomes that we envision.

"So we prevailed with plans for a smaller jail.

"Now, today, it seems everyone is interested in the size of this jail as though this has been a shared concern for the affected community all along. I think we all know it has not been a concern shared by everyone, and the matter, in my opinion, is being used as a delaying tactic to try to derail our progress on building a new jail.

"Why would anyone want to delay the building of our new jail?

"I think the answer rests somewhere between some just not wanting this administration to have another accomplishment under its belt and perhaps a desire for a different contracting team to have been chosen. It's a shame that people would stoop to this while acting as though they are doing something honorable… and then at the same time suggesting that something untoward might be going on in my administration.

"Now let me be clear… I don't mind review, analysis, disagreement and debate. I'm built for that and it comes with the territory of any elective office. But don't question my integrity and character or that of my administration. For me, that's crossing the line.

"I'm here to set the record straight on the questions that have been asked and already answered, but to clear the air on any lingering questions that might be out there.

"Regarding the height issue, the RFP did not set one standard to follow. There was mention of a height limitation, but the PPEA process is supposed to generate creativity and variables in proposed approaches. That very process is what yielded us even looking at other sites rather than the specified site, and we didn't disqualify proposers for suggesting alternatives in that instance. A “competitive negotiation procurement" is a more flexible tool than a sealed bid process. This project was given the appropriate degree of flexibility with regard to height. Further, I think it may surprise all of you to learn today that each of the four proposers exceeded the stated height limitation. I have a chart for you with the specifics in that regard.

"Next, the MBE2 Form. A lot has been said about Tompkins/Ballard not submitting the form. The City Attorney has said that the critical and undisputed fact here is that all requested information about MBE participation was captured (even if it was submitted in a different format). The provided form didn’t have enough room on it for the extensive MBE plan that Tompkins/Ballard wanted to submit, so they simply submitted the information in a different format. They have signed the participation commitment form and there is no gap in their commitment to the MBE involvement.

"Next, let's get to the matter of negotiating with only one vendor. The Procurement Director obviously ranked Tompkins/Ballard as "clearly more highly qualified" as she cited the section of the Code she was referring to in her memo. The word "highly" was inadvertently left out of the typed memo. The eleven member evaluation team felt that the recommended firm had far and away the best overall proposal. The scoring led to the judgment of "clearly more highly qualified."

"The Auditor has suggested that our scoring method exaggerated the differences. We feel instead that his scoring method minimized the differences. The line items that were scored have varying total values. This is why we scored each line item against itself. To total them for an overall score does not take into account the varying total value of each line item.

"Lastly, the financial structure of the joint venture has been questioned. The City has adequate protection against any non-performance by the joint venture. The Comprehensive Agreement requires (a) a performance bond issued by a surety company for the full value of the project, and (b) two performance guaranty agreements signed by Tompkins and Ballard, respectively, to guarantee the joint venture's performance of the project. The City has received financial statements from Tompkins and Ballard as well as an indication from multiple sureties that they would supply the required bonding for the joint venture.

"Bottom line, this very complicated process has been handled correctly, fairly, honestly and without bias.

"I say to those who want to derail tonight's vote; if you don't want to vote to allow this to go forward, then you explain to the dedicated law enforcement officers working under harsh conditions why this project won't happen at this time. You explain to the social workers, the clergy, the attorneys, the families of those who have loved-ones in jail why their loved-ones must continue to endure the run down conditions even longer and continue to have limited rehabilitation options. You explain to the taxpayers of the City of Richmond why the costs will rise and where in the city budget you expect to find the additional dollars. You explain it.

"Our recommendation is the right firm, the right design, the right price, and the right timeline. I'm urging City Council to support the recommendation tonight and let's do what’s right for the City. If the personal agendas that are working against our progress are allowed to derail this effort, it will be a sad day for the City of Richmond and one that I hope won't easily be forgotten."