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Coin Toss Decides $4.4M Contract

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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What happens when two bidders on a government construction project submit identical low bids?

A. They sue.

B. They whine.

C. They appeal.

D. They flip a coin, shake hands over the decision, and move on amicably.

In Gretna, LA, approach "D" prevailed, and the $4.4 million contract went to a New Orleans contractor (who chose heads).

The unusual letting process for rehabilitating the Gretna Police Department headquarters went down to a coin toss when two of the seven contractors pursuing the project submitted low bids of $4,410,000. (The project was budgeted at $4.5 million.)

Gretna Coin Toss screen grab

Ashton Miller Robinson flips a coin to determine which contractor will renovate the Gretna, LA, police headquarters. At right are representatives of F.H. Myers, who won the toss and the contract.

The bidders were F.H. Myers Constuction Corp. and Trimark Constructors LLC, both of New Orleans.

After the bids were verified and the contractors deemed equally qualified, the city ran the issue by lawyers. Ultimately, the lawyers, the city and the two bidders all agreed to a winner-take-all single flip of a special commemorative challenge coin.

Officials then spent about a week nailing down the terms of the toss.

Historic Occasion

As befitting a historic occasion—city officials could not recall another contract being awarded that way—a special (and neutral) flipper was designated. The honor went to Ashton Miller Robinson, 19, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were both longtime local police chiefs.

In fact, the new headquarters will be named for Robinson's great-grandfather, B.H. Miller Sr., a "legendary law enforcer" who served for 53 years, according to local ABC affiliate WGNO.

Papers were drawn from a police cap for the right to call the toss. F.H. Myers won the draw and called heads in the air.

Coin toss closeup screen grab

The bidders agreed to be legally bound by the toss, which used a special commemorative coin.

News video captured the action.

The coin landed heads, spurring high fives and handshakes all around. City officials boasted that the process, though unusual, may have been its most democratic and transparent contract award ever.

Flipping Over Contracts

Though unusual, the coin-toss award process is not unprecedented.

Last fall, officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada used a "best two out of three" coin toss to award a $171,534 tech consulting contract three months after the bid period closed, the National Post reported.

In September, the Albion (IL) City Council awarded a $2,000 contract to one of two bidders who were equally qualified and submitted identical bids to remove concrete debris from the city's dump, according to The Navigator.


Tagged categories: Bidding; Commercial contractors; Government contracts; Rehabilitation/Repair; Renovation

Comment from jesse chasteen, (3/28/2014, 9:51 AM)

They should have deemed it a co-venture by virtue of the identical bids...more bodies would have reaped some reward. It would have doubled the assets going in and add tothe chance of timely completion at budget...Coin toss prettycool though..

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/31/2014, 10:32 AM)

Ugh, no. A forced co-venture? Two sets of management with differing priorities. Madness.

Comment from jesse chasteen, (4/1/2014, 11:53 AM)

Goes back to sandbox 101(kindergarten) learn to get along or be held back...

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/2/2014, 10:07 AM)

I’m all for voluntary partnerships, not forced ones. And your analogy is entirely wrong. These companies "got along" fine. Neither disputed the process, called in lawyers or pitched a fit.

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