Bidding concerns cause withdrawal of $2.5 million riverfront contract; impact on project timetable uncertain

Promenade Park, which is under construction now along the St. Marys River, highlights phase I of the project. (Courtesy illustration)
John Crawford

A proposed $2.5 million contract to design phases II and III of Fort Wayne’s riverfront development project has been withdrawn from Tuesday’s City Council agenda, apparently because of concerns the proposal may not have followed a six-year-old law requiring competitive bidding for professional services.

The administration of Mayor Tom Henry announced last week it had selected DAVID RUBIN Land Collective of Philadelphia to lead the team of landscape architects, architects, urban designers, engineers and economists that will design future phases of riverfront development that will focus on preparations for public and private investment in the area on both sides of the St. Marys River between Ewing and Wells streets and Harrison and Clinton streets.

The contract had been scheduled for introduction Tuesday but was withdrawn after John Crawford, R-at large, questioned whether the selection had followed guidelines established by the law he successfully championed six years ago. Bids had not been previously required on professional services contracts, but the ordinance requires a competitive sealed proposal process.

Under that process, Crawford said, the city would invite firms to submit their qualifications. The responding firms would then be reviewed, with the city seeking proposals from those deemed most qualified. before selecting Proposal Process. Ten firms deemed qualified – not just one – would be invited to submit proposals. A selection process and negotiations on a contract would follow.

RELATED: Fort Wayne announces team to develop plans for next phases of riverfront development

RELATED: Riverfront design team leader looking forward to Fort Wayne downtown riverfront work

The winner would not necessarily have to submit the low bid, Crawford said, but paying more “would have to be justified” to council.

That process apparently was not followed in this case, Crawford said, which would have compelled him to vote against introduction and, possibly, jeopardized its passage. Withdrawing the contract allows the administration to review and correct the process if necessary before bring the proposal back to the table for consideration.

Funding for the contract would come from the .13 percent increase in the local income tax council approved last year. But Crawford, who plans to seek the Republican nomination for mayor next year, said council’s support for the increase “is an implicit promise that we would spend the money as well as we can. I’m not sure it would pass (Tuesday).”

City spokesman John Perlich confirmed that “we are withdrawing the contract from introduction tonight to answer some questions from one City Council member regarding the selection process. We plan to address the questions quickly so that the timetable will not be altered, but it’s too early to speculate.”