Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet has lifted the injunction keeping the city of Augusta from proceeding with the municipal building renovation project.
Overstreet signed an order Monday in Richmond County Superior Court, granting the city’s request. The judge found that the city has taken the necessary steps to bring the renovation in line with state law and city ordinance.
The judge had granted the injunction Sept. 23 in the lawsuit filed by John Z. Speer Jr. and the Augusta-Richmond County Property Owners Association against the city and the Augusta Commission.
After hearing from both sides, Overstreet agreed with the plaintiffs that the city’s method for selecting who would get the lucrative construction management contract was illegal.
The Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building renovation is a $14 million special purpose local option sales tax project. As it has in a number of the sales tax projects, the city chose to use a “construction manager at-risk” to take part in the design and oversee the renovations at the Greene Street building.
Speer and the association filed suit after the commission voted in April to award a contract capped at $1.29 million to Turner Construction.
The plaintiffs contended that the city code didn’t allow the use of a construction manager at-risk and that the city ignored state law requiring competitive sealed bidding for any construction contract worth more than $100,000. A city can use another method to select a construction manager if it ensures all the construction materials and services are obtained by competitive bids – a step the city hadn’t taken.
The plaintiffs also successfully challenged the city’s failure to provide written justification for not using competitive sealed bids, which is required by the city’s procurement code.
After Overstreet’s ruling in September, the city changed the code to allow for the use of construction managers at-risk and rewrote the proposal for the municipal building renovation project to require the construction manager at-risk to obtain all materials and services by competitive bid, and the city’s procurement director filed a written explanation for not using competitive sealed bids for the project.
City general counsel Andrew MacKenzie said Wednesday that the city’s pending appeal might be dropped but that officials needed to consult with the outside legal counsel handing the lawsuit. Although Overstreet’s ruling this week allows the municipal building renovations to proceed, there are still other pending issues in the case.
The major objection argued by plaintiff attorney Jack Long concerned how the procurement department selects bid winners in the local option sales tax project. Long contended the cost of a bidder’s services is given little weight, while subjective criteria such as quality of a presentation count heavily.