A little more than a week after the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee took the unusual step of approving a motion with only one affirmative vote, the full board on Thursday awarded a $10.3 million contract with only two yes votes from among its nine members.
The board’s rules of order only require a majority of those members present and voting to pass a motion, and members who abstain count toward quorum but are not considered to be voting.
Supervisors Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) and Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) voted to award the contract to Forrester Construction Company. Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Supervisors Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) abstained. County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) were absent for the vote.
Supervisors and County Attorney Leo Rogers argued the Board of Supervisors does not need majority support to award the contact. The board’s rules of order note that “any vote to appropriate funds requires a majority of the full membership of the Board for approval, not simply a majority of Members present.” However, Rogers, said, the money for the project was already allocated in 2016—the vote Thursday was only to award a contract and spend that money.
“Let’s just say I’m not happy with that contractor’s performance in Virginia,” Buona explained later. “As you know, I’ve been a critic of procurement law in Virginia, and this is a case where procurement law has, I think, failed us again.”
The county is required by state public procurement laws to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, and the company underbid under the next-lowest bidder by $31,860. A previous contract with the company, for construction of the Dulles South Recreation and Senior Center, faced repeated delays after problems with the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, and problems with the pool filters.
The Sterling Community Center’s extensive renovation plans include raising the split-level building to a single level along with expanding the gymnasium up and out, as well as a new lobby, teen recreation area, gym, fitness room, computer room, kitchen, classrooms, administrative space, and art room. The work also involves exterior and roofing work along with mechanical, electrical and plumbing work and geothermal wells.
In its annual legislative program, the Board of Supervisors is asking the General Assembly for more flexibility in the way localities choose contractors.