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 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.
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.
From 2008 through last year, more than $42 million in projects costing more than $50,000 were awarded through the roofing program, he said.
That amounts to 89 percent of the money spent under the program.
Last year, more than $14.7 million in projects, or 89 percent of the total projects, exceeded $50,000, Nestlen said.
They included three Oklahoma City Public Schools projects that cost more than $1 million each: Roosevelt Middle School, $1 million; the service center building; $1.4 million; and Hoover Middle School, $1.2 million.
Nestlen said the roofing program violates state law which states that “all public construction contracts exceeding $50,000 shall be let and awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, by open competitive bidding after solicitation for sealed bids.”
Public roofing projects awarded through competitive bid have come in lower — sometimes half as much — as projects under the roofing program, he said.
A $174,880 roofing project at Okemah Middle School cost $6.03 per square foot; a $126,000 roofing project at Oologah Public Schools cost $6.30 per square foot, and a $116,392 roofing project at the Woodward County Courthouse cost $9.54 per square foot.
That compares with projects under the roofing program, he said. A $302,132 roofing project at the University of Oklahoma power plant cost $18.64 per square foot; a $933,890 roofing project at Oklahoma City's Ridge View Elementary cost $16.38 per square foot, and a $97,857 project at OU's forum building cost $39.21 per square foot.
Nestlen said a $597,947 roofing project at Oklahoma City's Martin Luther King Elementary cost $11.04 a square foot, or about $5 more per square foot than had the project been competitively bid.
“Five dollars a square foot doesn't seem like much until you times it by 54,000 square feet, and now all of a sudden that roof probably cost in the neighborhood of about $260,000 more than it should have had it been under a public bid,” he said.
Nestlen said projects under the roofing program are anywhere from 30 to 50 percent higher than those awarded by competitive public bids. Under conservative estimates, the program has wasted at least $15 million in taxpayer money, he said.
“When it was created, it was probably created with good intentions because it was created for the purpose of roof maintenance,” he said. “They've turned into a re-roofing program so that now they have done since 2008 more than 200 full roof systems or re-roofing projects under the program.”