Questions raised over Oklahoma's roofing program

An injunction is being sought to shut down Oklahoma's roofing program, which offers fixed rates over a period of time for state and local government entities. A group complains that the program gets around a state law that requires competitive bids for projects costing more than $50,000.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 25, 2013
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A roofing program for public buildings administered by the state of Oklahoma has grown out of control and has wasted at least $15 million over the past six years, a group of roofers and others in the building trade contend.

More than $51.1 million in new roof and roof replacement projects have been awarded without seeking competitive bids, said Mark Nestlen, with the Coalition for Competitive Construction. He said projects costing more than $50,000 should have been put out for competitive bids.

He said contracts for public building projects costing more than $50,000 that were competitively bid have come in 30 to 50 percent lower than the fixed prices offered by the program.

His group sought to have lawmakers address the problem this year; however, a measure — Senate Bill 395 — passed out of a committee but was not taken up on the Senate floor by the March 14 deadline.

The next day, Saratoga Roofing and Construction, an Oklahoma City company, filed papers in Oklahoma County District Court seeking an injunction to shut down the program. No hearing date has been set.

State's position

State officials said the Roof Asset Management Program was developed in consultation with the state roofing industry.

The state is authorized to run the program under the state's Public Building and Construction Planning Act, they said.

“This program has legally provided quality roofing services at minimal cost to taxpayers for 25 years without complaint,” said John Estus, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which oversees the program.

“The contracts government entities can use through this voluntary program are put out for competitive bid to all qualified roofers are in full accordance with the law. The state is fully confident in the program's legality.”

The program divides the state into five regions. Multiyear contracts were put out for bid in 2007 and in 2009, Estus said.

Multiple bidders responded, and two companies that submitted the lowest bids were selected.

The contracts will go out for bid again later this year, he said.

The program is voluntary, Estus said.

One advantage of the locked-in prices under the program is that state and local government entities know up front the cost for materials and services.

Group's concerns

Nestlen said his group is concerned because the program has grown in each of the past five years, from $6.3 million in roofing projects in 2008 to $15.3 million in projects last year.

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