The Yuma City Council passed a motion Wednesday to award contracts to various architectural firms for professional services on a project-by-project basis.
But the vote came only after considerable discussion about the qualification process, the desire to include more local firms and two amendments to the original motion.
By law, the selection process is not based on cost, in which local firms would have the advantage of not needing to charge per diem and travel expenses, City Administrator Greg Wilkinson explained. Rather, firms are selected based on their scoring on several categories such as previous experience.
The original proposal before the council was to extend one-year contracts to the five highest scoring architectural firms, with options to renew annually for four additional years. Only one of the selected firms, Architecture West, is a local company. Two are from Tempe, one is from Phoenix and one from Scottsdale.
This was a red flag for Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, an outspoken proponent of buy locally.
He noted that the contracts are for smaller projects, with the maximum value of each firm's contract to be $250,000 for a 12-month period.
“I think the city would be better served by local vendors,” he told the council. “They would be able to respond quickly to issues,” something, he added, that a Tempe or Phoenix or Scottsdale firm couldn't do.
He noted that employees of out-of-town firms don't donate to the local economy, and the community loses out on the multiplier effect of jobs when business goes to non-local companies.
Rosevear also was critical of the request for qualifications (RFQ) scoring, calling it “irrelevant to the projects. All the local firms that applied have done extensive projects all over the community. The point system is skewed ... it's not fair to local firms. If we don't get our arms around this, the bulk of work will go out of town.”
To that, Councilmen Ed Thomas and Paul Johnson said they would like to hear from an architect about the qualifications to be a registered architect and about the application process.
Mayor Al Krieger responded that if they wanted that information, they should have done their homework and made some phone calls before the meeting. He also noted that city had done what it could to help local firms by holding a pre-submittal meeting to address any of their questions about the RFQ process and provide them with instructions on the best way to maximize their potential evaluation scores.
But Krieger finally relented and called Ed Fagin, an architect with Architecture West, to the podium.
Fagin explained that the RFQ application was long and involved and took several weeks to fill out with the requested information. He also noted that becoming a registered architect required a college education, a three-year apprenticeship and an examination that can take a year to complete.
In response to question by Krieger how Yuma's RFQ process compares to those in other communities, Fagin said it was similar. However, sometimes he sees some requirements that might give more weight to local firms.
To bring the discussion to closure, the mayor called for a vote on Johnson's motion to expand the list to all 18 applicants. Councilwoman Bobbi Lewis than moved that the contracts be limited to one year and come before the council again in a year. Both amendments were approved unanimously as was the amended motion.
Wilkinson also took up Rosevear up on his offer to sit down and discuss the issue with city staff and local architectural firms.