Amid Fierce Rivalry, Convention Center Selection Jury Confirms Choice to Lead $ 557 Million Project | Economic news



The five-person panel that chose a prime contractor for a $ 557 million Ernest N. Morial convention center upgrade project reaffirmed its previous choice on Monday, dismissing a series of challenges over the past month of two consortia that lost the first vote.

The bitter rivalry over the contract, which will give the winner the lead role in the largest renovation project in the 37-year-old building’s history, continued on Monday. The three competing groups traded arguments over their relative credentials, especially which would best represent black-owned businesses based in New Orleans.

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The meeting was ordered by the board of directors of the Convention Center earlier this month after the Louisiana attorney general’s office informed them that their initial selection, which was decided in a closed meeting in July, had probably failed to respect the state’s “open meetings”. law.

The panel was meeting in public this time to decide whether to reaffirm their previous vote, reverse it, or take other action. In the end, they voted unanimously to reaffirm their previous vote to award the contract to a group led by Indianapolis-based AECOM Hunt and local builder Broadmoor.

The convention center board is due to meet on Wednesday to decide whether or not to adopt the panel’s recommendation.

Convention center attorney David Phelps told the board he expects there will be legal challenges at this point regardless of the decision made.

The two losing groups – Metro-Lemoine-McDonnel and a group led by Woodward Design + Build – raised a new objection Monday ahead of the meeting, saying the AECOM-Broadmoor joint venture, which was formed in January to make the bid, would not had not registered for a contractor’s license in Louisiana and should therefore be disqualified.

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Phelps said this issue didn’t emerge until Monday morning and should be left to the board to decide on Wednesday.

One of the most controversial issues raised on Monday concerned the involvement of black-owned businesses. The Metro-Lemoine-McDonnel group and the Woodward-led consortium both noted that the scores they received from the panel in the category of small and disadvantaged business participation were lower than those of AECOM-Broadmoor, even if their two groups the financial partners and the prime contractors, whereas AECOM-Broadmoor did not have any.

Jimmie Woods, CEO of Metro Services, said AECOM-Broadmoor misrepresented his company as part of their group, despite being a senior capital partner of the Metro-Lemoine-McDonnel group. He urged the panel to take another vote.

“This team was designed to synchronize with the mission and goals of this convention center, the governor, the mayor, as well as the council of commissioners,” giving black-owned businesses leadership roles in major state-owned projects, Les bois said.

The two losing groups had previously focused on the aberrant vote of one of the five panelists, lawyer Hilary Landry, who gave them scores well below those of her fellow panelists while still being in line with their votes for AECOM -Broadmoor.

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The Losing Groups had previously alleged that Landry appeared to have some sort of personal bias in favor of Broadmoor, pointing to his late stepfather’s role as supervisor of Broadmoor’s parent company, as well as his liaison role with Broadmoor in his commissioner role for the Louisiana Exposition and Stadium District, also known as the Superdome Commission.

None of the group members mentioned Landry in their Monday presentations and never alleged that she had benefited from an association with Broadmoor.

Allen Square, CEO of GH Mechanical, which is part of the Woodward Group, focused on what he called flaws in a voting system, whereby a single panelist’s vote could be decisive in the end result. .

Landry was the only panelist to speak on Monday and she only addressed the allegations that had been made against her.

“I think a lot of time has been wasted on false innuendo of impropriety regarding my role as a volunteer on this panel,” she said, adding that her role as a Superdome Commission volunteer was simply to sign contracts. after they have gone through many layers. approval.

Landry said, however, that she agreed with Square’s point about the scoring. She noted that another Convention Center selection process earlier this year to pick a lead developer for the entertainment-focused mixed-use neighborhood, which is also expected to cost around $ 500 million, had a similar voting pattern.

“The problem here, gentlemen, is not the scorers but the scoring,” said Landry. “Maybe what you should be spending your resources on is changing the law to impose a standardized scoring process.”

She continued, “Regarding your tactics of bullying, bullying and harassing me in an attempt to get me to resign so you can start this process all over again, you picked the wrong woman.”

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