Shaky Construction|Sweet on the Dr
"Low-Bid to No-Bid," by Jim Schutze, August 14
Jim Schutze's article "Low-Bid to No-Bid" is long on sensationalism and short on substance.
Schutze's main theme certainly doesn't raise anything unique in the history of contracting on either public or private projects. Big increases to an original contract by add-ons, change orders, delays and/or unforeseen circumstances are definitely not unheard of and are nothing to write home about, much less to write a sensational article in the Dallas Observer about (absent some fraud or wrongdoing, which Schutze nowhere alleges). However, growth of 7,700 percent (Schutze is no mathematician...using his numbers his mere 770 percent growth is off by a factor of 10) without re-bidding does raise some obvious concerns (fair enough): Was this growth foreseen and intended in the first place? Were unit prices for modifications competitively bid in the original bidding? Has the contractor been doing a consistently good job? Would it cost more money to change horses (contractors) one or more times in midstream, just to satisfy Jim Schutze? Schutze explores none of these factors, which any semi-intelligent reporter would normally explore.
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Schutze questions the technique of employing a contractor in both the design and construction phase, as if he has uncovered something uniquely problematic. But this is a very, very common technique in contracting, hopefully intended to save time and money. (Whether DART employs this common technique wisely or ineptly is something I do not know, but Schutze is only questioning this accepted technique itself. Where did Jim Schutze get his degree in procurement techniques? We may need to hire him as a consultant on our next multibillion-dollar project.)
Schutze also implies that there is something sinister about negotiating contract modifications with a contractor behind "closed doors." I have been involved in many such negotiations, and we generally closed the doors to the building to save on utilities! Does Schutze think he has revealed to his readers some sensational new discovery about secrecy? Give me a break!
Schutze says this whole story was all revealed to him by documents given to him by DART, but he doesn't attribute what these documents were. Did they give him a stack of contract documents 50 feet high? I'm betting they merely gave him internal audit reports on these contracts. If so, what did the internal audits conclude, either good or bad? He doesn't say, whereas he could have easily revealed this. Have any other contractors filed complaints about these contract awards and "modifications"? This is usually the first sign that something smells bad in the contracting, but Schutze doesn't say one way or the other.
Schutze implies that there must be some link between these 2006 and 2007 contracts with Carcon on the one hand and DART's recent, abrupt admission that they have a 1 billion dollar long-term shortfall in their construction budget on the other. But his article doesn't even come close to showing any link between the two. The article only provides Schutze's raw speculation for his headlines. Not necessarily to support DART, but given the unforeseen and abruptly rising costs of almost everything recently, I can believe that a very significant impact over the long term could have hit DART's budget. (Although, I would like to see a breakdown of the 1 billion dollar increase.) Big increases have hit many budgets of many companies recently, so again Schutze is definitely not telling us anything new.
Charles Walpole, Farmers Branch
"It's Dr Pepper Time!" by Robb Walsh, June 5
Sweet on the Dr
I just received the article in the mail from my niece, who lives in McKinney. I tasted Dublin Dr Pepper for the first time at the nephew's graduation party and LOVED it. My favorite soft drink has always been Dr Pepper, but Dublin definitely tasted better. I thought maybe it was the bottles that caused me to imagine a difference, but now I know it's the sweetener. I feel it was a very cruel thing for me to be introduced to Dublin and then not have it available in Kansas City, don't you?
I really enjoyed your article giving the history of Dublin Dr Pepper, and due to the article, I plan to visit the plant the next time I'm in Texas—can't wait to try the sundae with Blue Bell ice cream (another favorite of mine) and the Dublin syrup.
Glenda Kankey, Overland Park, Kansas
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