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City in boxing match over old records



In a nondescript warehouse on Fountain Boulevard, a heated boxing match is underway between city officials and a nation-wide chain of storage facilities that houses the city's voluminous stockpile of old records.

The stakes aren't huge -- about $27,000 in taxpayer funds and thousands of musty boxes full of old city records -- but the fight is on, with each side accusing the other of low blows and foul play.

It all started when the city chose a new company, Denver-based DocuVault, to hold roughly 18,453 boxes of city records for the next five years.

The company that now holds the records, Pennsylvania-based Pierce-Leahy, responded by questioning the city's bidding process and taking its time releasing the boxes to the city's new storage company.

The warehouse shelves everything from old personnel files to planning documents. Most are more than three years old; some are slices of city history, going back more than 90 years.

"Based on our current staffing levels, Pierce-Leahy management has determined that 50 boxes per day are the maximum that the company will be able to release to the city," Pierce-Leahy attorney Lisa Goldschmidt wrote to the city's purchasing office in August.

The company could expedite the order -- handing over 500 boxes a day -- but that would cost the city $27,679, Pierce-Leahy managers told city purchasing director Steve Gess, who manages the contract.

Gess took the message as a shot below the belt -- a de facto protest of the city's decision to use another company.

"At 50 boxes a day, the city would have to wait almost a year and half to get its records back," Gess said, adding that he awarded the bid to DocuVault, because the company offered a lower bid.

The city responded by telling Pierce-Leahy that it will sue if it doesn't start handing over the boxes at a rate of roughly 500 boxes a day.

"We strongly feel that your attempt to hold our records hostage is not only a breach of the contract, but also justifies an unsatisfactory performance rating, which in turn could eliminate your firm from future bidding considerations with the city," Gess punched back in an Aug. 13 fax to Pierce-Leahy officials.

While the city's contract with Pierce-Leahy doesn't specify how quickly Pierce-Leahy must return the boxes, it does say that when the contract is terminated, the boxes should be turned over "at no extra cost to the city."

The language was inserted into the contract after another company charged the city thousands of dollars to transfer boxes to Pierce-Leahy when that company's five-year deal was negotiated in 1994, Gess said.

The manager of Pierce-Leahy's Colorado Springs office, Steve McCoy, would not comment on the bout over boxes, referring calls to Goldschmidt and another lawyer at the company's King of Prussia, Penn. offices. Neither of the attorneys responded to messages left by the Independent.

Gess said the current snafu isn't holding up city business, because Pierce-Leahy is still filling case-by-case requests for records retrieval. But the boxes beef is affecting profits, said cBowen Banbury, president of DocuVault.

"This is a three-year contract, so if they turn over 50 boxes a day, it will take 20 months to get the boxes and that shortens our contract," Banbury said.

"If that happens, we will lose money on the contract," he said. "Pierce-Leahy is interfering with our contract ... If this goes to court, we may join the lawsuit."

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