Supes award bid despite protest

The Butte County Board of Supervisors awarded a bid to build a $3.5 million community center in Oroville May 22, despite fervent protest from a small group who claimed the bidding process was flawed.

The board’s approval of the Southside Oroville Community Center, which will be built by Trent Construction of Red Bluff, was unanimous and strong. In fact, two of the supervisors, Kim Yamaguchi and Mary Anne Houx, stumbled over each other’s words when seconding the motion.

Even so, several people in the audience urged the supervisors to deny the bid and said that the bidding process was “unfair and casts a cloud of suspicion” on the deal.

Bob Sharkey, a longtime Oroville resident and park supervisor with the Feather River Recreation and Parks District, led the dissent. He claimed that a local company—namely, Carey Construction—should get the bid, since one of the goals of the community center has always been to improve the southside Oroville economy.

He was also angry that while Carey Construction was awarded the bid last fall, the deal was revoked after the county changed some of the features of the facility and the whole project had to be put out for bid again. That time, Trent Construction had the lowest bid and was awarded the project.

Sharkey said that was unfair and proved that the county was playing favorites to Trent Construction.

“There’s something that stinks about the way this went down,” Sharkey said.

Several board members were confused by Sharkey’s claims and several times asked him to clarify what his complaints were. As he spoke, more than a dozen supporters of the community center shook their heads and whispered among themselves.

Leanne Cox, who said she has been a part of the community center planning team since the beginning, questioned Sharkey’s motives. “He says he supports this project, but he’s holding it up,” she said. “ … In the end, I don’t really care who builds it. I just want it built.”

Several of the community center planners spoke to the supervisors with near-religious fervor, and audience members broke into applause during their discussions.

“I say ‘amen’ to this project,” said Anita Bell, with almost sermon-like zeal. “You’ve done nothing wrong here … so continue building the dream.”

This was the second time the board discussed the awarding of the bid. The first time, on May 8, it approved the bid without allowing time for public comment, and Sharkey claimed that when it voted without hearing public comment, the board violated the Brown Act. While County Counsel Bruce Alpert vehemently denied that the board broke the law in its May 8 vote, he suggested that it hear the item again to "clear up any confusion."