City’s Tree Service Contract in Limbo as Council Deadlocked on Contract Award
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By Shawn Raymundo
The city council hit a dead end on Tuesday, September 1, in awarding the city’s contract for a multi-year tree maintenance contract, and again delayed the application process that saw an Anaheim-based company win the bid.
Tuesday’s deadlocked decision on whether to award the contract to West Coast Arborists (WCA) or reject all bids was the third time in more than four months that the council postponed a decision on the matter.
After receiving offers for a three-year tree service contract in late April, the city council decided to turn down offers from Rod’s Tree Service and WCA – the lowest bidder and staff recommendation for the contract. The employees were then instructed to submit a new offer for a five-year contract.
At the beginning of June, the city submitted another recommendation to the council on the selection of the WCA based on the new offers for the five-year service contract. This recommendation was again rejected when the Council decided to reformulate the application process and place it under a personal service contract instead of a maintenance service contract.
The following month the city council approved a new city policy regarding the process and selection of contractors. The new guideline should allow the city to consider other factors in tree care besides cost.
Public Works Director Tom Bonigut told the council on Tuesday that the new policy shaped the latest RFP process, which uses a 100-point system to evaluate bidders using the updated criteria.
Three companies vying for the five-year service contract had submitted bids for the final round of proposals, with United Pacific Services being the lowest bid at $ 196,500. WCA submitted a bid of $ 219,200 while Rod’s, a San Clemente-operated company, submitted a bid of $ 266,620.
Based on the criteria of the new guideline, a panel of department heads from the city – Dave Rebensdorf, Utility Director, Cecilia Gallardo-Daly and Bonigut – evaluated the three offers, which resulted in WCA being again rated as a top contender.
According to the city, the WCA had received top marks from each of the panelists, with an average score of 85. The assessments were based on an adequate knowledge of the local area, the experience of key project staff, the work plan and approach, the project experience and the cost proposal, among others.
United Pacific received an average score of 79 from the jury. Rods, who received overwhelming support from members of the community on Tuesday night, received an average score of 78, according to the city report.
Bonigut found that the cost factor was less than a third of the score.
“The cost was less than a third of the total, and 70% of the 100-point total was due to factors other than cost,” said Bonigut. “Compared to tenders, the costs were actually a greatly reduced factor.”
After a lengthy public comment section in which residents made claims against the WCA’s security record, incumbent mayor Laura Ferguson Bonigut asked if security records were part of the criteria.
“In terms of security, we go further than what is included in the proposal. I am aware of many of these issues that have been raised by commentators. All I can tell you is that your employees are not concerned that West Coast Arborists can provide a safe working environment, ”Bonigut said, adding that many of the allegations made were“ frankly not even WCA’s own ”.
Ferguson later stated that safety records should have been a factor in the proposals. She also noted that Rod’s has been the town’s tree care provider for more than 40 years.
“You are very unique. Have a full service tree care company. . . With West Coast having so many customers, I can’t imagine these cities right here, front and center, having what we’re doing with Rods, ”said Ferguson.
Faced with increasing pressure to award the contract to Rod’s, Councilor Gene James suggested a further rejection of all offers and suggested initiating a new RFP process with safety records being considered part of the evaluation criteria.
“Rod’s Tree Service was part of that community and I just won’t be able to walk away from them,” said James.
Prior to filing his application, James asked District Attorney Scott Smith if the city would be at risk if the city did not select WCA for the contract.
“If we don’t do that, there will be quite a significant exposure here. This is at the discretion of the council and we would defend any decision you make, ”said Smith before realizing that while councilors can privately choose where to shop based on subjective criteria, they do not have that privilege on the podium .
“State law requires that contracts be awarded and awarded on a competitive basis and not in terms of preference and past achievements,” said Smith. “In this case, the city had criteria that dictated the award of mandates on the basis of a low bid. West Coast won this twice, and we’ve put that aside for criteria that take subjective factors into account. “
Councilor Chris Hamm pushed back the motion to reject the offers, calling it a “stupid decision” while fully advocating Rods, calling the company “rad” and thanking the community.
Hamm and Ferguson continued to criticize the motion to repeatedly support fiscal conservatism, but were unwilling to place a service contract with the lowest bidder.
“What I find funny about all of this is that I hear the term fiscal (conservatism) being thrown away. You, Laura, you have handled the term transparently, you are against legal costs. . . But with you, a Conservative Treasury Secretary, you’re ready to look away from $ 344,000 over five years, ”said Hamm.
“I just don’t like people throwing edicts on what they live on until it benefits them and their friends the most. In which case, your friends are clearly Rod’s Tree Service,” he added.
Hamm and Councilor Kathy Ward voted against James’ motion, while Ferguson voted yes. In the event of a tie, the status quo is maintained.
Ferguson asked Smith to weigh what this means for the future and whether the city’s current monthly contract with Rod’s will continue. Smith replied that the city probably “did this while we can” and that he would have to consider the options the next day.
Bonigut said on Wednesday, Sept. 2, city officials are reviewing and considering possible next steps for the RFP process and tree service contract.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in global studies. Prior to joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as a government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the US Territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow the San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.
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