David Moresi says his building was not evaluated properly in bidding for the school district's administrative offices.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local developer is crying foul over bidding for the new school administration offices.
David Moresi of Moresi & Associates filed a complaint on July 8 with the inspector general's office questioning the request-for-proposals review process and the awarding of the contract.
Moresi's building at 26 Union St. was one of four proposals received by the city. The others were 37 Main St. owned by Scarafoni Realty; 25 Marshall St. owned by Greylock Realty; and 159 East St., the Barbara and Eric Rudd Art Foundation.
The three-year contract, with option for two more, was awarded to Scarafoni on June 18.
"As a business owner, I'm very disappointed in what is happening as I believe that I was not given a fair consideration," Moresi writes in his complaint. "It is my firm belief that small-town politics and friendships as well as self-interests have seriously interfered with the awarding of this bid and it has undoubtedly been handled inappropriately and illegally."
Moresi says the school district did not follow the procurement process, improperly evaluated his property, entered into "secret negotiations" prior to awarding the bid, did not communicate and did not tour his building.
"There was a location that was a better fit, that's fine," he said on Tuesday. "But I'm just disappointed with how the process went down. I would have thought the committee would have come and looked at it. That is not how you choose a piece of real estate."
School officials say they were well acquainted with the building and had photos submitted by Moresi as well as the building's blueprints for their considerations.
In his response on Aug. 14, Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city "utilized all processes required in compliance with Chapter 30B in the issuance and processing of the RFP to arrive at its decision for space.
"... As I stated in a previous communication, the process very simply determined the 'very best space' for our school administrative offices."
Central Office has been quartered in Conte School but must relocate before the school renovation project begins. The new offices must also accommodate the Educational Center currently located on West Main Street.
The city doesn't have the space — 10,000 square feet for offices and 2,000 for storage — so a request for proposals solicited leased locations preferably in the downtown area.
A review board of the city's Chief Procurement Officer Laura Wood, Superintendent of School James Montepare, the school district's Director of Facilities Matthew Neville, School Committee member and School Finance Committee Chairman Lawrence Taft and school district Business Manager and procurement officer Nancy Ziter evaluated the locations on April 25.
We went with the property that was best for the school district.
— James Montepare
Both Moresi's building, the former Wall-Streeter Shoe Co., and the Scarafoni property, on the second floor of the Berkshire Bank building, rated the highest; Rudd's property, the former Methodist Church, ranked lowest. The panel eliminated 25 Marshall St., the former Brien Center, from consideration.
Using a scale of 3 to 1 (highly advantageous, advantageous, non-advantageous), the Scarafoni property consistently ranked a 3 in every category; the Moresi property received 3s and 2s and, Neville's evaluation, several ones.
Moresi was particularly upset that Neville scored the renovated office building — which had housed United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County until recently — as requiring major alterations and not being hooked up to city sewer and water (which it is). The building conformed to zoning and was certified as an educational center, he said.
Both Alcombright and Montepare said Neville's score was likely an error. It would not have been enough to change the outcome in any case, said Montepare. "We went with the property that was best for the school district. The choice was very clear for what we were looking for."
"[Moresi's] buildings are immaculate, he's a good business man," he said. "I think he does a great job with what he does. It just wasn't the right property for us."
The prime consideration was a single floor with room for 33 staffers and at least three conference rooms, handicapped access, utilities, parking and security.
Moresi's property is 300 square feet less over two floors than Scarafoni's single second floor but has more parking; Scarafoni's bid was $12.25 per square foot and Moresi's $11, to increase to $12.50 by the third year.
Montepare on June 5 told the School Committee in open meeting who had done the evaluations and that they had determined which property best met the criteria and reviewed it in May with the School Finance Committee, which recommended the choice. The final lease included $15,000 toward new carpeting, $20,000 in office modular systems, a reduced first year rent and $69,000 for years two and three — less, said Montepare, than the cost of heating the Conte space.
There is no actual recourse when local government fails to really do their due diligence."
— David Moresi
"I'm bound by what I can do and what I can say," Montepare said on Tuesday, because of the state procurement laws. "I'm allowed to negotiate with the bidder of choice. If I can't come to terms with the first priority, I can negotiate with No. 2."
He said the process had been very transparent with both the school and city finance committees approving the choice, as did the School Committee and City Council in approving the budgets with the costs factored in.
"I don't remember any other bid going through that, ever, ever," Montepare said.
Moresi said the inspector general's office had recommended he go to the Ethics Commission or to court if he wanted to pursue the matter.
"I'm not going to do it because North Adams has enough problems as it is," he said. "I'm just very disappointed and discouraged. There is no actual recourse when local government fails to really do their due diligence."