Though the end contract with Ryan Companies to design and build a new St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) ballpark came in $500,000 under original estimates, St. Paul officials say a competitive bid process didn’t actually save any money.
City of St. Paul officials initially awarded the design/build contract to Ryan on a no-bid basis, but Mayor Chris Coleman changed course and implemented a bid process after criticism from other elected officials, the Taxpayers League and Gov. Mark Dayton. After the dust settled and multiple bids on the $54-million project were submitted, Ryan and crew ended up winning the bid anyway.
In theory, the city saved $500,000: the city had budgeted $4 million for design, and the winning bid from Ryan ended up at $3.48 million. One catch: that $4 million was not set in stone and the city had targeted it as a place for potential savings. In other words, the design fee probably would have ended up lower after negotiations. From Finance & Commerce:
“You could make the leap and say, ‘We saved half a million due to the RFP process,’” said Paul Johnson, of Minneapolis-based Nelson, Tietz & Hoye, the city’s owner’s rep for the project. “… Frankly, that’s not fair and not true.”
Johnson said the city believed it had some leverage to negotiate with Ryan before the project was bid.
“We were going to get real aggressive with them on their fee, basically telling them they didn’t have the expense of the pursuit of the project,” he said.
In the end, even if the bidding process didn’t lower the cost of the project — and we’re inclined to agree with the city — it did add a level of trust on the project to taxpayers. In a no-bid process, you’ll never know if you spent tens of millions wisely. With bids, you have a good idea of what the market will bear.
The new Lowertown ballpark is expected to open in 2015.
Image courtesy St. Paul Saints.
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