Loupassi pushing for open bids on Shockoe project

A Richmond legislator wants the General Assembly to tie use of state funds for a slavery heritage site in Richmond to a requirement that the city seek competitive bids for a baseball stadium and related development proposed by Mayor Dwight C. Jones in Shockoe Bottom.


Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, asked House Appropriations Committee Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, on Tuesday to amend the pending state budget to enforce a state law requiring competitive procurement on local projects that receive state financial aid.

“The state’s law protects an important public policy, that is it ensures that public dollars cannot be spent with favored or chosen individuals,” said Loupassi, a former Richmond City Council president who opposes the mayor’s plan.


Loupassi’s letter, distributed to the mayor and members of the council, said the state law also “ensures that all businesses that might be able to participate in a potential project have the right to bid and attempt to get public business.”


“Additionally, it protects the public’s purse strings because it guarantees that the price negotiated is likely to be the best with many different bidders seeking public contracts,” he wrote. “The law seeks to prevent insider dealing.”


The pending state budget includes up to $11 million for the slavery heritage project — an interpretative pavilion at Lumpkin’s Jail, improvements to the Richmond Slave Trail, and a slavery museum — that is part of the mayor’s economic development proposal for the Bottom.


Jones, the Appropriations chairman, said Tuesday that he would expect Richmond to use a competitive procurement process for the portions of the project that would receive state money, but not the stadium and other parts of the mayor’s plan.


“We can’t get into prescribing that,” he said.


Loupassi said in an interview that the stadium, adjoining private development and slavery heritage site have been “packaged as one thing” by the mayor, so he asked the Appropriations chairman to require the city to use competitive procurement “for the entire development project.”


“To the extent they want us to give them state money, they ought to follow what the state law requires,” he said in an interview.


Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, said the city expects that the Richmond Economic Development Authority “will bid out the stadium portion of the work.”


Hawley questioned whether the city could dictate how private developers award contracts for their parts of the project, which include residential development, a hotel and grocery store, and possibly offices.


Under the mayor’s plan, the EDA, a quasi-public body, would act as the city’s agent to oversee the land transactions necessary to construct the stadium, as well as private development proposed as part of the project.


The city would enter into a “Shockoe Development Cooperation Agreement” with the EDA, empowering it to build and own the stadium and lease it to the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Double-A baseball team that plays now at The Diamond on North Boulevard.


Loupassi expressed concern to Chairman Jones that the EDA “is being used to bypass any competitive bid process.”


He said “it is not my intention to have the state legislature dictate to the mayor or City Council on what is the best project for Richmond.”


However, he added, “I cannot support state money being associated with the no-bid secretive negotiation process being used by the city … regarding the Shockoe proposal.”