Salesman calls foul after $400,000 artificial turf bid

Jimmy Potts
Crews with Hallas Construction, Inc. put the finishing touches on the recently approved $411,000 artificial turf at Longhorn Stadium, on the campus of Early High School.

EARLY — An artificial athletic turf salesman believes he and area taxpayers received a raw deal with the Early ISD Board of Trustees’ decision to award a $406,572 bid to Hellas Construction Inc.

John Alberton, a salesman for SprinTurf, believes the board ran afoul in selecting Hellas Construction Inc., whose bid $78,000 higher.

“I had a bad feeling to begin with, but we were very competitive,” said Albertson, a former place kicker for the Michigan Wolverines. “We were new to Texas, but we’ve sold more than 1,800 fields across the country so we’re a large company … It was very apparent when they announced the scores, how they evaluated them and the pricing, that our proposal was never read.”

In April, the board approved a $411,072 finance agreement with First Security Finance of Arkansas to fund replacing the turf, which had been the original turf installed during the construction of Longhorn Stadium in 2008. In March, the board tabbed Hellas after giving it the highest rating among bids with an 85 out of 100 with a total bid of $406,572, followed by Paragon Sports Constructors (75, $400,350) and AstroTurf (75, $344,800), SprinTurf (60, $328,405), Vibra-Whirl (55, $395,800) and Symmetry Turf (50, $391,142).

According to the bid evaluation score sheets provided to SprinTurf by Early ISD, Hellas had the same score cost of project, despite entering a bid $78,167 higher than SprinTurf’s. Hellas also received perfect scores in every other category: quality of product (30 of 30), technical experience (15 of 15) and warranty (15 of 15). Of the five remaining bidders, only two managed to have perfect scores in one category.

Despite having installed turf for the Reitz Bowl, a perennial member of various publications’ annual top 10 Indiana High School football stadiums that requires a special irrigation system because it is built into the side of a hill overlooking the Evansville skyline, SprinTurf received a 5 out of 15 for technical experience.

“Our product is as good or better than theirs. We used to make the product for [Hellas] years ago,” Alberton said. “We actually made it for them before they had their own stuff. To me, it’s mindboggling … How can you justify a fourth of the cost? It’s almost 25 percent more they paid than they needed.”

Early ISD Superintendent Wes Beck said SprinTurf’s proposal was read and evaluated by a committee of board members. The score sheet was the cumulative score from each of the four committee members, which is why Hellas and SprinTurf had the same score for project cost despite Hellas being $78,000 higher.

“There was a four-person committee that reviewed all of the bids,” Beck said. “… All of the turf companies are different and all of the turfs they recommend are different. The whole thing is like comparing apples to oranges. That’s why we have a matrix that is approved in our purchasing policies, that goes along with all of the state protocols for purchasing. We’re bound by state rules.”

Beck said there are more factors at play than the lowest bid and the board is not compelled to pick the lowest bid, unlike some municipalities that are required by ordinance to accept the lowest bid. He added a factor for giving SprinTurf lower marks in technical experience is they did not have a field to compare with the other bidders.

“If you would have dealt with the representative from [SprinTurf] then you would understand why the scores were lower,” Beck said. “They did not have a piece of turf in the entire state of Texas. The company is not here to compare to anybody else and we felt like it was not a partnership that was prudent to enter into … We chose what we thought was the best turf, the safest turf for the kids to be on. Our students’ safety, while they are participating (in activities) on this field is our highest priority.”