Rejected bidder threatens lawsuit over Portland DHHS relocation

Ashley Gofczyca of Homelss Voices for Justice leads a chant in Portland on Tuesday protesting the State's plan to move DHHS offices from downtown to the jetport area in South Portland.
Ashley Gofczyca of Homelss Voices for Justice leads a chant in Portland on Tuesday protesting the State's plan to move DHHS offices from downtown to the jetport area in South Portland. Buy Photo
Posted Dec. 05, 2013, at 6:21 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 05, 2013, at 8:29 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Tom Toye, a developer whose bid to lease space in Portland to three state agencies was rejected in favor of a plan to site the trio near the jetport in South Portland, says he may sue the state over what he calls a “flawed” bid selection process.

Toye’s bid was one of four submitted to lease space to the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Workers Compensation Board. His proposal would have put the agencies in two buildings he owns on Lancaster Street in downtown Portland. The Department of Labor is already located in one of those buildings.

At about $41.7 million, Toye’s offer was the lowest bid of the bunch. But his bid scored lower than the eventual winner — a plan by ELC Management Inc. to build a new facility near the Portland International Jetport in South Portland at a cost of $43.3 million.

Each bid was scored on location, quality, bidder experience with similar agreements, access to downtown services and cost. In total, Toye’s proposal scored 87.5 points, while ELC’s scored 109.

“The way [the state] arrived at those point values seems arbitrary,” Toye said in an interview Thursday.

Toye said his bid should have scored much better than ELC’s plan in location category. His site scored 6.5 points out of 20 for location, while the site near the jetport scored 18.

He echoes the criticism of the award decision by top state Democrats, including Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland and the city’s Democratic mayor, Michael Brennan. They say the decision to move DHHS to South Portland, far from the region’s urban core on Portland’s peninsula, will make services less accessible for the state’s neediest residents, especially those without cars.

“There’s no question we should be No. 1 on location,” Toye said. “One of the criteria was proximity to other social services, and all of them surround my property already. None of them are near the jetport. We’re a couple blocks from the downtown METRO hub. They keep touting the fact that the jetport site is on the bus line, and yeah, that’s true. But it’s inferior to my location.”

Jennifer Smith, a spokeswoman for the state’s contracting agency, said the jetport location was given more points for its location because of parking concerns.

Department of Labor employees already complain of limited parking on Lancaster Street, she said, and Toye’s plan did not include enough parking for the employees, clients and others who would come to all three agencies. Toye’s plan was also dinged for putting the three agencies in two separate buildings, when the request for proposals valued co-location under one roof, she said.

The award process “followed the law established by the Legislature. It was fair and transparent,” Smith said.

Alfond and Brennan met with Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett, who oversees the state contracting agency, on Wednesday, but neither side budged from its position. Millett attempted to work toward solving transportation issues that face the planned new location in South Portland, but Alfond and Brennan balked, saying they wanted Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to find a way to keep the services in Portland.

“We’ve been crystal clear,” Alfond said Thursday. “We want these combined agencies to stay in the city of Portland. They should because the clients that it serves are better suited if it stays in the city of Portland where there’s all the other city services, social services that support the clients working their way out of the tough situation they’re in.”

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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