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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

The legal challenges of hiring help came into focus Monday night for the Richmond City Council as city attorneys outlined the process of selecting a consultant to review the plan for a Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium.

Timing may be the most critical factor, because Mayor Dwight C. Jones still has not presented a final plan to the council, though his administration is hoping to do so at the April 14 council meeting.

The council is considering spending up to $50,000 on consulting, a limit chosen because anything higher would trigger a longer, in-depth procurement process, according to City Attorney Allen L. Jackson.

Under a request for quotations process, the council would gather at least three price quotes, officials said. The truncated process means the council must select the lowest responsible bidder without a more nuanced evaluation of bidders' strengths.

"This is the best and maybe the only way to get something done quickly," Jackson said.

Jackson briefed the full council on the matter at Monday's meeting of the organizational development committee, where the legislation authorizing the funds was advanced with a recommendation for approval.

The mayor's office has welcomed the outside review, but it's unclear how the process might affect the project's timeline. The administration hopes to have the stadium ready by April 2016. A council resolution that approved more negotiations on the plan lists deadlines of Aug. 1 for land transfers and permitting and Dec. 1 for the completion of site preparation.

According to a draft document laying out the scope of the review, the consultant, or consulting team, would look at the project's fiscal, environmental, socioeconomic and transportation impacts.

If the council were to deem a bidder not responsible, a rare event, the city could also be subjected to a monthslong appeal process.

Councilman Chris A. Hilbert, 3rd District, said determining a bidder's responsibility could prove tricky.

"Talk about subjective. It seems to me that the social sciences are about as subjective as we can get," Hilbert said. "I'm just feeling like we're treading into extremely murky waters on this issue."

The council would choose the consultant, not the mayor.

Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, invited her council colleagues to offer feedback on the scope of the work.

"That information will not be sent out until this paper is adopted," Robertson said.

The vote could come at next week's meeting, but Councilman Jonathan T. Baliles, 1st District, suggested holding off until the administration finalizes the proposal.

"Because if we don't have a plan, we don't need to spend $50,000," Baliles said.

The council voted 7-2 last month to request money for an outside consultant due to the complexity of the mayor's plan, which also calls for a new commemoration of slave history and private development around the ballpark.

The council also held a brief special meeting Monday to appoint members to the Richmond Metropolitan Planning Organization. The council voted 8-0 to appoint Baliles and Councilwoman Michelle R. Mosby, 9th District, as voting members of the MPO board.

The council members will replace two city planners due to uncertainty on the MPO board about whether staff members can hold voting positions, officials said. Other localities are expected to make similar changes to their MPO representation.

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April 9, 2014




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