County chooses jail construction team

County chooses jail construction team

By Jeff Havens, Staff Writer

Winnebago County Board members crushed a hand-picked committee’s recommendation for the county’s jail construction manager last Thursday. The board voted 22-6 against the team of Stenstrom Companies, Inc., and Gilbane Construction Co., which was the “recommended choice” by a committee assembled by county board Chairman Kris Cohn (R).

Instead, board members voted 23-5 to negotiate with the team of Scandroli Construction Co., Ringland-Johnson, Inc., and Bovis Lend Lease, Inc. The team is expected to negotiate a contract with the county estimated between $2.2-$3.3 million for overseeing building of the new $110 million, 976-bed jail.

Controversy surrounded the committee’s recommendation of Stenstrom/Gilbane because of Cohn’s use of Stenstrom’s aircraft for her failed run for Illinois Secretary of State last year, Stenstrom and Gilbane’s use of non-union labor and Stenstrom’s cash contributions to Cohn’s campaign. Cohn’s leadershipt has also wavered since the new board took office last December.

Since early April, Brent Johnson, president of Ringland-Johnson, has heavily lobbied the board to reconsider the committee process that suggested the jail’s construction manager. The same committee and process recommended the jail’s architectural team of the Durrant Group, Larson and Darby, Inc., and PG Architecture (see last week’s architect contribution article and this week’s Puri article).

A source said Illinois Senator Dave Syverson (R-34) is part owner of the building that houses PG and Guyer/Eichen law firm, 2601 Reid Farm Road. Reportedly, Syverson lobbied several county board members on behalf of Johnson. Syverson acknowledged his ownership of the building but denied having any influence over the committee’s recommendation for the jail’s architectural team.

Board members, such as Larry Bauer (R-2) and Polly Berg (D-7), said preparing to build the jail has been a learning process. Berg said many board members expressed satisfaction that the board changed the selection process from the board voting on a committee’s team choice to the board voting directly for the teams.

Sources said the original recommendation process gave Cohn’s choices for the positions a majority on the committee. The process required the architectural and construction manager teams to make presentations to the committee. After the presentations, the committee tabulated scores and made a recommendation to the board for whom to negotiate a contract with.

Later last month, Jim Hughes (D-11) called for the construction teams to make presentations to the full board. The board approved Hughes’ motion on the grounds that they needed more information about the teams. The presentations took place May1 with labor unions holding placards opposing the hiring of Stenstrom/Gilbane.

Before the vote last Thursday, many board members such as Hughes, Bauer, Berg, Tim Simms (R-14), Bob Kinnison (R-10), Gary Jury (R-3), John Terranova (R-4) and George Anne Duckett (D-12) publicly expressed satisfaction with the altered selection process. Only Berg and Terranova announced their choice during the debate before the vote–their choice was the Bovis team.

Although there is little question the board’s choice is qualified to oversee the jail’s construction, the team of Bovis/Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson is not without controversy.

A March 5 Times article (“Med school lawsuit and the jail), detailed allegations that Ringland-Johnson was given “a no-bid contract” to build the University of Illinois at Chicago Women’s and Children’s Health Clinic at 2780 McFarland Road. The clinic was built in the late 1990s. The allegations were made in a lawsuit filed by former University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) College of Medicine in Rockford physician Dr. Joseph Levenstein.

The article also described how Johnson bought property that eventually housed the Winnebago County satellite jail. With the help of former county board Chairman Gene Quinn (R), the county leased the property from Johnson, who later sold the property back to the county. Sources described Johnson’s contract as a “sweetheart deal.”

Winnebago County Circuit Clerk Marc Gasparini (R) watched the construction manager vote Thursday from the back of the room. After the vote, some board members who were for Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis celebrated at Gaspo’s Restaurant and Bar, 310 S. Church St. The business is owned by John Gasparini, and the building is owned by Don Gasparini.

Don Gasparini was recently named a member of the Illinois Tollway Board. Sources said Syverson was behind Don Gasparini’s nomination even though he was officially nominated by Sen. Todd Sieben, (R-Geneseo).

Marc Gasparini does not normally attend county board meetings. However, this vote was of particular interest to the Gasparini family, not only because of their political ties but to the Scandroli family.

Marc Gasparini’s campaign fund donated $500 to the jail referendum campaign.

In 1997, Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers (D) was appointed sheriff after the retirement of Marc’s father, Don Gasparini (D). The same year, Marc Gasparini was appointed to the county circuit clerk’s position after Ron Kotche retired from the post.

Sources said Kotche left the position before his term was complete to enable Marc Gasparini to get the job and run with the power of an incumbent. Sources allege that in return, Kotche was sold a piece of property on Fish Hatchery Road by the elder Gasparini. Denying those allegations, Don Gasparini and Kotche’s supporters argue the two stepped down in 1997 to take advantage of early retirement packages.

Earlier this year, Marc Gasparini won approval from the Winnebago County Board to re-zone property from agriculture to residential even though it was not consistent with the county’s land use plan. This property is adjacent to the elder Gasparini’s property.

In an interview on WNTA radio’s Chris Bowman Show, Don Gasparini said he didn’t understand why the re-zoning of his son’s property was controversial—he only wanted to be near to his family and watch his grandchilren grow. Detractors of the board’s re-zoning approval said the board applied a double standard because similar re-zoning requests by others have been rejected in the past.

In addition, the Kotche property acquired from Gasparini has been purchased by a religious organization, which is exempt from Burritt Township and Winnebago County taxes. Sources said developer Sunil Puri is involved with the religious group.

Reportedly, Don Gasparini’s sister is married to Joe Scandroli Sr. The Scandroli family has recently contributed cash to the campaigns of Marc Gasparini, Meyers and Cohn.

Voting for the Stenstrom/Gilbane team were John Ekberg (R-10), Ray Graceffa (R-7), Randy Olson (R-1), Dennis Owens (R-1), Randy Sturm (R-5) and Thayer.

Voting against Scandroli/Ringland-Johnson/Bovis were Mary Ann Aiello (R-9), Graceffa, Dave MacKay (R-13), Peter MacKay (R-5) and Sturm.

Voting for Sjostrom/Boldt were Aiello, Doug Aurand (D-3), Duckett, Graceffa, David and Peter MacKay, Dorthy Redd (D-6), Sturm and Thayer.

The Fridh/Alberici team did not come up for a vote because the resolution governing the process dictated that the first team obtaining 15 votes won the right to negotiate a contract. Sources said Fridh killed his chances of getting the job by telling the board several weeks ago that the committee recommendation process was “fair.”

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