DOA Defends Kenilworth Project Process
The Department of Administration is defending the contract awarded to build a dormitory project at UW-Milwaukee, releasing a time line yesterday and saying the project award didn't initially unfold on a level playing field. A top DOA official also said the process is "very different" than the procurement process that has come under fire following the conviction of former DOA employee Georgia Thompson.
The Kenilworth dorm project at UWM has become the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by a group that claims its winning proposal was tossed aside and the project re-bid because it "was not politically popular with the person who made the key decision."
Sean Dilweg, executive assistant to DOA Secretary Steven Bablitch, said the evaluation committee originally awarded the contract to Prism, but the state Building Commission rejected the award because of concerns that Prism was allowed to revise its bid late in the process.
The protest to the Prism award was raised by another bidding group, Cullen-Scion. Prism had originally introduced a mix that was part dormitory, part private apartments.
"After the proposals came in, Prism said they couldn't swing the financing, so they were allowed to change their mix," he said. The project was ultimately awarded to Weas Development, who proposed a dorm-condominium mixed use.
"I think the RFP process has to be a level playing field, and this appears it was not a level playing field," Dilweg said of the first round. "It was decided the only resolution was to have another RFP process where Prism had a chance to re-bid, as did the others."
Dilweg said this process was "very different than the standard procurement process," citing the bipartisan Building Commission, which has the ultimate authority to greenlight the project. The Building Commission approved Weas unanimously, Dilweg points out.
In the standard procurement process, contracts are awarded by an evaluation committee with no oversight from the Building Commission. The commission has authority over all matters involving the buying, selling, leasing or construction of state buildings.
'I think Prism has done a fair job of continuing the case," he said. "They've ramped up their PR machine, and that's their prerogative."