An Oklahoma trade association contends out-of-state contractors are receiving favorable treatment on construction projects at Fort Sill in violation of federal law.
The American Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma alleges out-of-state contractors fail to follow bid specifications, use substandard materials and fail to have their work federally inspected. Many also fail to pay federal-scale wages or state taxes, the association said.
Those advantages, in many cases, make it impossible for Oklahoma subcontractors to compete for projects on the Army post about 85 miles south-southwest of Oklahoma City. The result is hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and tax revenue for the state.
“It is clear that something is wrong with the way federal contracts are being awarded and implemented at Fort Sill,” the association's executive director, Mark C. Nestlen, wrote in a recent letter to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, outlining the group's complaints.
A two-hour meeting last week at the Lawton Country Club between association representatives and officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the work at Fort Sill, did little to resolve the group's concerns.
“We're not being allowed to play on a level playing field on these contracts,” association President Gordon Jeney said. “There is preferential treatment being given to out-of-state contractors.”
A corps spokesman attributed some of the complaints to new, more-flexible requirements in some military construction contracts.
“People didn't understand this change,” corps spokesman Ross Adkins said.
“We hope we've clarified that. Frankly, dealing with the government … it's not easy.”
Jeney said it would take “a team of attorneys” to “make sure you caught all the fine print,” in the new bid requirements.
“Most of the subcontractors don't have the deep pockets to go through the 480-page contracts they're sending us,” Jeney said.
A new Oklahoma law set to take effect Nov. 1 is aimed at curbing abuses by out-of-state contractors on state public projects, association officials say, but many such safeguards are lacking in federal contracting.
‘At a disadvantage'
According to the association, out-of-state contractors at Fort Sill often disregard bid specifications and instead design their own in violation of federal procurement regulations.