Leesburg Council Rejects Closed-Door Briefing on Interchange Design

An effort by VDOT representatives to brief the Leesburg Town Council on a new design concept for the Rt. 7/Battlefield Parkway Interchange was rejected Tuesday night.

Council members refused to go into closed session to hear a presentation about an alternative design proposed by one of three contractor teams bidding on the $58 million project.

The VDOT review team was seeking feedback about whether the council objected to the alternative before the contracting team spent money pursuing the concept in greater detail.

VDOT Program Manager Tina Briganti-Dunn told the council that the state’s design-build program allows contractors to propose alternative approaches to the project. In this case, the plans involve information deemed proprietary that could not be discussed in open session.

After a months-long public process to build agreement on the project, council members raised concerns about potentially approving or endorsing changes to the interchange design behind closed doors and then not being able to discuss or present the changes with constituents. Some also worried that such review would be unfair to the other bidders, possibly opening the contract award to a protest.

“Now you’re asking us to change that design but we’re not going to let the public know,” Mayor Kelly Burk said.

But VDOT representatives said the consideration of alternative designs is an important part of the design-build contracting process. “It is a process that VDOT allows to encourage innovation—to get a faster, cheaper, better design,” Briganti-Dunnsaid, adding that all bidders have the opportunity to propose alternatives designs.

“We cannot talk about those designs and details in open session because it is considered proprietary information to that contractor,” town Capital Projects Director Renee LaFollette explained.

Still, council members were concerned that the closed-door process was unfair to the other bidders and to the public. After the brief discussion, the motion to enter closed session was withdrawn and the meeting adjourned.

The inaction by the council appears to put the decision, and the risk, back in the hands of VDOT and the contracting team. Both VDOT and town staffers said the alternative appeared to have merit.

3 thoughts on “Leesburg Council Rejects Closed-Door Briefing on Interchange Design

  • 2018-09-12 at 5:51 pm
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    What about an interchange design could possibly be proprietary?

    Our procurement systems are messed up.

  • 2018-09-12 at 5:55 pm
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    PS Please don’t make the access/egress to Giant another one of those utterly moronic single exit shopping centers. I’m looking forward to the new WalMart but I have no idea how a single exit onto Battlefield will possibly work for such a large shopping center.

  • 2018-09-13 at 12:28 am
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    What this story does not say but was clear to anyone watching is Council was likely going into the closed session until Tom Dunn led the discussion about the improper nature of keeping the public out of the loop of the project by going into closed session. Also missing from story is the requirement of a Non-disclosure agreement required by the contract bidder. This is yet another example of government thinking it knows what is best for citizens so just let em operate behind closed doors. This is all kinds of wrong.

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