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Oklahoma Trade Association: Out-of-State Contractors Favored at Fort Sill

Filed by KOSU News in State Impact.
August 28, 2012

Children of the Concrete / Flickr

A soldier explains Army equipment to a child at an event at Fort Sill in Lawton.

Out-of-state contractors are receiving favorable treatment on construction projects at Fort Sill, the American Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma alleges.

The group’s executive director, Mark C. Nestlen, wrote a letter to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-More, outlining the complaints, reports The Oklahoman’s Phillip O’Connor.

The out-of-state contractors, the letter alleges, ” … use substandard materials and fail to have their work federally inspected. Many also fail to pay federal-scale wages or state taxes, the association said.”

The Oklahoman:

Those advantages, in many cases, make it impossible for Oklahoma subcontractors to compete for projects on the Army post about 85 miles south-southwest of Oklahoma City. The result is hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business and tax revenue for the state.

Federal procurement regulations require contractors to use bid specifications on projects, but the association says the rules aren’t uniformly enforced, to the detriment of Oklahoma companies, The Oklahoman reports.

On one project, a subcontractor installed cheaper electrical conduit than called for in the bid requirements in several Fort Sill buildings, including a National Guard armory, a basic training barracks and a dining hall.

Officials with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers — which oversees construction at the Lawton base — said Oklahoma contractors “could have made similar alterations,” the association told The Oklahoman.

But in Nestlen’s letter to Inhofe and Cole, he told of an Oklahoma subcontractor who asked an inspector if he could bid for a second phase of the same Fort Sill project using the cheaper conduit and was told no.

There are questions about inspections, too. The association says Oklahoma companies face more inspections than their out-of-state counterparts, a claim the Corps denies.

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