Saturday, November 3, 2007

10/08 - Rejected Jekyll bidder appeals

Date October 08, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

A spurned bidder for the job to lead new development on Jekyll Island is asking the island's oversight agency to reconsider its plan.

The Jekyll Island Authority, however, says there was nothing wrong with how it selected Linger Longer Communities for the task, and is standing by its decision.

The rejected Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, formed by Atlanta developer Wade Sheadly to seek the contract to create new public spaces and accommodations on the state-owned island, however, contends that Linger Longer had an unfair advantage and that its winning proposal also has hidden costs.

Sheadly declined to say what his group would do if it does not receive a favorable review.

Four days after the Jekyll Island Authority on Sept. 24 unanimously awarded the revitalization job to Greensboro, Ga.-based Linger Longer Communities, a lawyer for Jekyll Island Revitalization Group wrote the authority Sept. 28 that the bidding process was unfair because different bidders had been treated differently.

Jekyll Island Revitalization contends that its proposal, and the proposals of other rejected groups, limited plans for a new town center of shops and restaurants to a 45-acre site, as specified in the Jekyll Island Authority's request for proposals.

"What we've discovered is that (a consulting group advising the authority on the bids) gave out false information to the Jekyll Island Authority and the people of Georgia," said Shealy.

Shealy said his group contends that Linger Longer was given one set of parameters while other groups were given another. Linger Longer, Shealy contended, was given permission to plan the first phase of construction outside of the 45-acre tract.

The result, Shealy argues, was that Linger Longer was able to submit a proposal that contained more attractive open space.

"Give us the same amount of land and we would have had more open space," Shealy said. "The boundary lines are very specific in the (request for proposals from bidders)."

Shealy also contends that, in the short-term, Linger Longer will ask the state for more than $47 million dollars to help finance its project, while his group sought venture partners to capitalize the development. No tax dollars would have been used in the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group's proposal.

"Our project would have paid more dollars to the state than Linger Longer over a 15-year period," Shealy said.

A presentation prepared by Bleakly Advisory Group, the consultant the Jekyll Island Authority hired to help it solicit and evaluate bids, shows that over a 15-year period Jekyll Island Revitalization Group would pay the authority $128.06 million while Linger Longer would pay $67.55 million.

Now that the letter of protest has been filed, Shealy said his group must wait for a response, which he anticipates will take about a month.

"There was an error made, and we're going to give them some time to examine it and come to some sort of remedy," Shealy said.

Jim Langford, project manager for Linger Longer Communities, said his group did not participate in any illegal or inappropriate actions during the bidding process.

During the proposal process, he said, various bidders submitted questions to the Jekyll Island Authority. He said Linger Longer asked the authority if it could submit some creative ideas.

"They gave us permission to do so, allowing us to offer suggestions for the short- and long-term health of Jekyll Island," Langford said. "We assume that the other respondents included ideas in their proposals that we weren't privy to at the time, and we did not begrudge them this opportunity."

The Jekyll Island Authority declined to comment on specific questions about the protest letter or the possibility of litigation, but did issue a statement through its spokesperson.

"The Jekyll Island State Park Authority conducted a fair, thorough and objective evaluation of the proposals submitted for the position of a private partner to plan and execute, along with the authority, the revitalization of Jekyll Island. We are pleased with our selection of Linger Longer Communities," according to the prepared statement.

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