FieldTurf sues TX school district after its low bid is spurned

The Garland school district has been sued by the low bidder on its project to put artificial turf on seven athletic fields.

FieldTurf USA representative Chris Patton told the school board his company was the most experienced, had spent months on its bid and would save the district $1.2 million. Following the recommendation of its staff and its engineering firm, the board instead opted for the third highest of five bids, $8.876 million from Hellas Construction Inc.

FieldTurf filed suit in Dallas County District Court, asking for a temporary restraining order and relief. Tuesday, a judge threw out the request for a restraining order and set a Feb. 27 date to rule on a temporary injunction request.

The district seeks to have the fields at six of its high schools and Johnson Stadium installed by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

“As the most responsive, responsible and capable bidder, FieldTurf submitted a bid to GISD that exceeded GISD’s requirements,” the suit states.

In the tabulation of bids, Hellas was scored higher in experience/reputation, project management, past performance and safety. The suit challenges the scoring of the safety category as unclear and arbitrary.

Hellas was the only bidder on the turf project to score all three possible points in the past performance with owner category. FieldTurf scored one and finished in second place, 94-92, in the overall tabulation.

“We’ve complied by all bid requirements and should grade higher than all other bidders in the evaluation process,” Patton told the board. “We’re a $3 billion company with 100 years in the industry, 8,000 fields installed and the inventor of the modern infill turf industry and offer the district $1,253,821 in value and savings.”

Because litigation is ongoing, Garland ISD communications director Chris Moore said Friday, the district could not comment.

It was clear at the Jan. 20 board meeting that the district had concerns with FieldTurf’s product. Athletic director Cliff Odenwald cited problems with the turf the company installed at Johnson Stadium in 2006. Superintendent Bob Morrison said Patton talked about quality control issues.

“If you tell me you have a product problem, we do the research on it. And if we verify you have a product problem, to me that’s the end of the discussion,” Morrison told the board before its 6-0 vote. “We move on.”

The district is moving on to some $500 million in projects. Those first in line from a $455 million November bond package could bid this spring.

The athletic fields were part of a smaller group of projects, once on the bond list, but instead being tackled with fund reserves.

That means the money is available now. And, in fact, ground for the new turf has been broken at one site, where track and soccer are not currently taking place.

Unlike other bidders, Hellas contributed to Vote Yes Garland ISD, a political action committee formed to get the bonds passed in the fall. Another contributor was RLK Engineering, the company that recommended the district award the bid to Hellas.

The suit does not make any reference to the campaign PAC or the bond election.

Vote Yes Garland ISD treasurer Steve Hill said in November that it is quite typical for companies a district does business with to support the effort to pass a bond election.

“The district was not affiliated with the Vote Yes group or its funding sources,” Moore said in a statement. “Vote Yes was comprised of parental and community organizations, separate and aside from GISD, that took it upon themselves to promote last fall’s bond proposal.”- By RAY LESZCYNSKI