KCBD INVESTIGATES: Engineering qualifications for $99 million bond election
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Voting began the week of April 22nd, which means Lubbock County residents get to decide on a new multi-million-dollar road project. That project would restore and expand roads all across the county for $99 million. This project has been supported by multiple engineering companies, not just in Lubbock, but across the state and the rest of the nation.
Three engineering companies have already pre-qualified for that project and all three are based outside of Lubbock, some even as far away as North Carolina. So our KCBD Investigates team asked the question of, ‘how and when were those companies selected?'
That process is based on RFQ’s, also known as Requests for Qualifications - essentially a screening tool that helps identify which companies are qualified to do the work necessary for the job at hand.
It was about one year ago that those three specific companies were pre-qualified for that engineering design.
County Engineer Jennifer Davidson explains: "They reviewed the original RFQ, TxDOT did, and said that that was fine for [her] to solicit just the three that were pre-qualified or pre-selected, and so [they] solicited the three firms that were pre-qualified.”
Those three pre-qualified engineering firms are based in Richardson, Texas, Fort Worth, and Raleigh, North Carolina, two of which also have offices in Lubbock. Of those three, for one-third of the tasks listed, only one was allowed to submit a proposal for the engineering design. That company works out of Richardson, nearly five hours East of Lubbock. Their closest office is in Midland.
So the KCBD Investigates team asked Davidson, “What are the qualifications that make those three companies ready to handle the engineering?”
She said, “The evaluation is based on qualifications and organization of the firm or the team.”
However, when it comes to those final RFQ scores, the public is not allowed to know.
Davidson says they, "Really [try] to make sure that there is open, open conversation and discussion amongst the committee, and not to be individual or singled out, as you know, you.... We want to protect the people that serve on that committee so that there is free and open discussion.”
The Investigates team then tried to ask whose decision it is to make those scores public. Davidson said, “I’m not going to tell you, whether it’s a purchasing policy or a Civil DA, or if it was the commissioners court.”
KCBD did submit an open records request, and the Attorney General responded saying that, for reasons of competitive information, the county may withhold the tab sheets. However, whether to release was ultimately up to the county.
Later, Commissioner Bill McCay told us it was the commissioner’s court which ultimately decided not to release the RFQ information.
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