Did D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) jump the gun earlier this week in announcing that the city was awarding a Baltimore-based construction company a $133 million contract to build a forensics laboratory? Yes, says a rival company that has filed a protest with the city's Contract Appeals Board.
An attorney for a rival company said yesterday that it offered to build the facility for less and that Fenty's announcement was premature since its challenge is still pending.
"To make decisions to go forward when there is a genuine, substantive dispute doesn't seem in the best interest of all involved," said Rod Woodson, counsel for District-based Tompkins Builders.
Tompkins filed a protest with the appeals board in February when the company learned it lost a bid to Whiting-Turner, a Baltimore-based development company.
A spokeswoman for Whiting-Turner could not be reached by phone and did not return an e-mail request for comment.
But Sean Madigan, a spokesman for deputy Mayor for Economic Development, said the city believes Whiting-Turner was the best firm for the job and "wanted to keep the project moving."
"It's not uncommon for people to file appeals," he said. "We wanted to proceed as is. It'll be parallel with the contract dispute."
But what if Tompkins wins its appeal? "Then, we will have to switch gears," Madigan said.
The new $220 million, six-story building is slated to open in 2011 at be at 415 Fourth Street SW, the former site of the police department's 1st District headquarters. The building will house the city's first crime laboratory along with a public health lab and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The city has long been criticized for not having a crime lab. The city must rely on the FBI to process forensic evidence while the Drug Enforcement Administration analyzes drugs.
-- Nikita Stewart