Thursday, July 23, 2015

Change order: More than $406,000 in extra fees on top of controversial $40 million contract

The change order obtained by FOX10 News shows several hundreds of thousands of dollars more in fees added on to the $40 million contract with Harris Corporation.

FOX10 News | WALA

MOBILE COUNTY, AL (WALA) - A document known as a change order, obtained by FOX10 News, shows hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees added to a controversial $40 million contract the Mobile County 911 Board signed two years ago. 
The board's consultant told FOX10 News if the contract wouldn't have been rushed, those expenses may have been avoided.

The 911 board approved the controversial contract with Harris Corporation back in 2013 to help enhance emergency response communications across the county. Now, that contract is under investigation by an independent review panel.

Some board members pushed to have the contract investigated, because they felt it was "barely legal," saying the project was not bidded out in a fair amount of time.

Dominic Tusa, a consultant hired by the 911 board, agreed.

"There wasn't enough time for other vendors to prepare a credible, good proposal," said Tusa.

Now we're learning, that rushed effort could have caused more tax dollar waste.

According to a change order obtained by FOX10 News, Harris Corp is asking the 911 board for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of extra work that somehow wasn't included in the original contract specifications.

For instance, Tusa said one of the change order items involved a discrepancy with radio towers.

It was written in the contract for the towers to include incandescent bulbs rather than traditional strobe bulbs, but the problem there is, Tusa said, if the incandescent bulbs are on top of towers, the towers need to be painted a certain way.

"When Harris made its proposal, they identified the fact that they were going to provide this incandescent lighting and marking for the towers based on the Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations, which happened to also include painting, yet, later on they came back with a change order and said, 'gee, we need funding from you guys to paint the towers,'" explained Tusa. "Well, Harris has been in the radio business for a long, long time, and certainly they should have known that if you're putting incandescent light bulbs on towers, they have to be painted, because that's what the Federal Aviation Administration rules say. So our opinion, Harris should have been responsible for painting the towers."

A close look at the change order shows another $255,000 was spent to strengthen two different towers in the county, and another $26,100 was spent on metal awnings and hoods for shelters.

Tusa said Mobile County employee Eric Linsley, who wrote the specifications for the contract, didn't heed his advice. He feels if his services had been utilized when the contract was written, the board may not have had to face these extra fees.

"I think they gave it their best effort, but they're probably, they're not as knowledgeable in procurement, because they don't do theses types of procurements, and they don't understand maybe what is and isn't involved or included in a radio system project of this type. They should have utilized some outside help," said Tusa. "I know that we would have caught these things."

Tusa said Linsley's possible oversights and the board's lack of fair bidding for the project is to blame for these tax dollar costs.

"That's something that probably would have come up in contract negotiations if they were aggressive negotiations," said Tusa.

A spokesperson for Harris only offered the following comment on the matter: "change orders are a common practice to amend a contract when both parties are in full agreement."

Meanwhile, Gary Tanner, Director of Mobile County 911, said he will not be commenting on camera any more until the investigation into the contract is complete.

Original article can be found here:

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