A $4.58 million single-bid contract for soccer field synthetic turf drew criticism from four aldermen, a local resident and a St. Louis company at the O’Fallon City Council meeting March 20.
Synthetic turf is being installed at seven soccer fields at the O’Fallon Family Sports Park as part of the Destination O’Fallon economic development project. The 10-year-old grass fields are being upgraded to all-weather ones to make the multi-sports complex state-of-the-art and attract regional and national tournaments.
The bid from Shaw Sports Turf of Calhoun, Georgia includes a base price cost of $4.376 million, with an additional $145,000 for HydroChill and $60,500 for 9V9 Lines.
The bid was made through a Contract Purchasing Bid Board Alliance.
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During public comments, Joe Geneto, representing the St. Louis office of ATG Sports, which specializes in synthetic turf and sports stadium construction in the Midwest, asked for the opportunity to bid on the contract. They have offices in Andover, Kansas and St. Louis.
“We would love an opportunity to bid on this contract, that’s all we ask for. We have not had an opportunity to do so,” he said.
He said they would be competitive, and suggested they could save the city between $500,000 and $700,000. His company installed the turf at O’Fallon Township High School nine years ago.
O’Fallon resident Curt Loveling urged the council not to accept a single bid.
“It is fiscally irresponsible to accept one bid on a major project such as the one for the sports park,” he said.
He said he researched the national bid boards, and discovered fees are paid, and compared work from farther away to local businesses.
“Some of you, this might be your last meeting … I ask you to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Illinois,” Loveling said.
Despite objections, the bid for the SP Phase 4A Turf, was approved 8-4, with Aldermen Robert Kueker, Herb Roach, Courtney Marsh and Ned Drolet voting against it.
Shaw Turf is a Berkshire Hathaway Company. Byrne & Jones Construction, a local certified field installer, provides warranty on the fields. The project is expected to be completed by August.
City data states that its potential savings is $769,700, without inflation, using the bid board vs. a traditional method. Additional savings are generated with value planning by completing this project during off-peak construction season as well as per square foot price for the 99,285-square-foot project.
Drolet asked the council to consider more time to get bids, which was echoed by aldermen Kueker and Roach.
Drolet said the St. Louis ATG office was very quick to respond, if needed.
In support, aldermen Matthew Gilreath and Matt Smallheer pointed out the staff work already and the timetable. Smallheer noted that we would lose an eight-year warranty if the city went with separate installation company, and that he trusted the staff’s decision.
Gilreath said this had been researched for four months. He acknowledged that ATG was a great company. He has been and official and coach, and understands the optimal turf conditions needed for playing sports, and was confident in the city staff to select what was best for the fields.
O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Director Mary Jeanne Hutchinson said it was important to begin construction so that the fields will be open by the fall soccer season.
“If we lose fall, we’re looking at a $10 million impact to the economy, with food and housing,” Hutchinson said. “We are on a tight time frame … This is the best turf for what we’re going to do.”
She mentioned the safety factor, saying it was sand- and rubber-based, not just rubber only, which has resulted in more tears in the surface.
In addition to league games and field rental by regional soccer clubs, there is interest in scheduling as many as eight soccer tournaments this fall.
The O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department and Millennia Professional Services analyzed numerous artificial turf specifications, and selected Legion Pro HP+ because of its Powerblade “Bolt” synthetic turf system, which exceeds the industry stringent requirements, and the HydroChill cooling system, which is a Shaw-only project.
The powerblade “Bolt” synthetic turf system has fibers remain upright with lightning bolt-shaped blades that angle a stronger vertical axis.
The HydroChill cooling system allows moisture to provide cooling by drawing the heat from the surface, and the cooling effect can last for two to three days. Hydro Chill has achieved 50 degrees in lower surface temperatures, compared to a standard synthetic turf system.
The O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department used the bid board to purchase and install the initial turf field at the Family Sports Park. Scoreboards, three field lighting projects and numerous equipment purchases have also gone through the bid board process.
Staff also noted that the city of Overland Park, Kansas which operates one of the premier soccer complexes in the Midwest, is using Shaw Legion HP Pro Turf to replace six fields of their 12 this year, and the other six next year. Their parks staff said their initial installation was not a quality project, so they went with Shaw, and HydroChill was another major factor. Nearly 2,000 games are played on each field there annually.
The soccer fields are included in the new fiscal 2017/2018 budget in the amount not to exceed $4.6 million. A 4 percent hotel/motel tax increase was approved in the fall to fund the Destination O’Fallon project. The council approved issuing bonds for the project, and the bonds were sold on March 16, to pay for the construction.
Mayor Gary Graham explained, in a separate interview, that bid boards provide better rates nationally.
“This is a very specific turf. There is an over $760,000 difference between the bid board and local, and this has a warranty,” he said.
Illinois allows government units to participate in joint purchasing laws and agreements. Competitive solicitation and the contract process results in aggressive and competitive pricing because of the demand and volume. Industry-leading and acclaimed vendors are available, and evaluation is a 12-step comprehensive process.
The city provided data using Belleville West as an example for unit price square footage. Byrne & Jones of St. Louis was $7.30 per square foot, with ATG Sports of Kansas/St. Louis $9.07 per square foot and Hellas of Texas $12.70 per square foot.
City data indicates that they are saving nearly $450,000 on design and construction management fees by opting to purchase from a bid board.
Typical construction management fees can range from 5.7 percent on construction budget (estimating $475,000). This number does not include additional time on bid documents.
In order to meet August completion date, the remaining project schedule for other components is:
▪ March 27, Community Development: Musco Lighting Contract;
▪ April 3, Award Bid Board Lighting Contract;
▪ April 10-17, Bid Package Release FSP Phase 4B Parking Lots, Infrastructure, Electrical Design; and
▪ May, Award Infrastructure Bid Package.