FORT BENNING, Ga. - A federal judge has ordered the Army to reinstate the contract for Fort Benning's new hospital to the original bidder and not seek out another firm, according to a ruling unsealed July 16.

But the $333.4 million design-and-build project, handed out last September to Turner Construction Company Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., and its partner, Ellerbe Becket of New York, will remain on hold as litigation is expected to continue, said Billy Birdwell, spokesman for the Savannah District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"As is standard in this court, there is a mandatory appeal period while all parties review the decision," he said.

The initial deal was the Savannah district's largest contract for fiscal 2009. But the Corps halted work Feb. 26 after the Government Accountability Office upheld two organizational conflict-of-interest protests it received 10 days earlier. The GAO recommended Turner and Ellerbe Becket be eliminated from consideration and that the Corps make a new award.

In a March 19 news release, the Corps announced it would execute the recommendations, which put the hospital project in limbo.

In the recent decision, Judge Bohdan A. Futey of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims sided with Turner by granting a permanent injunction and ordering the Corps to restore the contract.

"Turner has succeeded on the merits of its claim that the Army was arbitrary and capricious in implementing the GAO recommendation, since the GAO failed to adhere to the appropriate standard of review," Futey wrote in a 36-page report.

The Turner contract calls for construction of a state-of-the-art, 745,000-square-foot facility to replace Martin Army Community Hospital, the second-oldest in the Army.

The hospital project was funded with $278 million in military construction funds and $125 million of Army Base Realignment and Closure money, for a total of $403 million. Turner Construction's bid came in $170 million under the funded amount.

Ground was broken on a 65-acre site between I-185 and Upatoi Creek, but progress has been minimal. Officials had targeted the summer of 2013 for completion, but Birdwell said there are no new timetables for a work restart or grand opening.

"Some areas had been cleared to make room for mobilization of the construction firm's team," he said, "(but) we don't know yet when construction may resume. We don't yet know how or if plans will change."

Fort Benning's new hospital will be an architectural icon that incorporates the latest technological advances in medical facilities and equipment and elevates the quality of life for Soldiers, veterans and their families, engineers and Medical Department Activity officials have said.

Page last updated Fri July 30th, 2010 at 18:34