Companies Weigh in on State of Tree Service Contract

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By Shawn Raymundo

West Coast Arborists topped San Clemente’s tree maintenance contract three times in the past few months, each time beating Rod’s Tree Service – a local business loved by many in the community.

Although WCA is the prime candidate for the contract, WCA has continued to come up empty-handed as the council has tried to decline all offers and change its application process every time the price is put to the vote.

“You don’t see that in other cities. It’s a rare occasion when you see this happen – everyone bids three times on the rules and they come back and don’t give them to you, “said WCA President Patrick Mahoney, later adding,” I’ve never done this before seen before. “

Last week city councils hit a dead end on the treaty, leaving the city’s arboriculture in the balance. A motion by Councilor Gene James, supported by incumbent Mayor Laura Ferguson, suggested that the bids be rejected again and that another bidding process be initiated, this time taking into account the security records.

For WCA, which has long been bidding on government contracts and works with more than 300 agencies in California and Arizona, the recent bidding war in San Clemente is “unheard of,” said Mahoney, who was disappointed with the council’s latest meeting.

“It is disappointing that they have not been able to follow the guidelines they have set,” he said.

Prosecutor Scott Smith said a council decision not to cooperate with the WCA could open the city to legal action. Smith informed the council that he did not have the privilege of buying contracts based on subjective criteria.

“If we don’t do that (with WCA) there is quite a significant risk here,” Smith added, adding, “State law requires that contracts be awarded and be competitive and competitive rather than preferential and past Successes are awarded. ” ”

After the council meeting, Mahoney told the San Clemente Times that the WCA was “studying all of our options.”

“Hopefully they’ll do the right thing at the upcoming meeting (September 15),” he said, noting that the council’s 2-2 decision on whether to award the contract or reject the bids remained in the air.

It is unclear whether the city will bring the issue back for further discussion at the next council meeting.

On Tuesday, September 8, Ferguson said that if the council voted to reject all proposals, it would recommend re-submitting the contract, including safety records in the assessment criteria, while reducing the term of the potential contract to one year .

“We really get a lot of freebies. . . It does not take into account the number of trees they plant, “said Ferguson.” I would like to see what the other bidders could do about this. In terms of what they do for the nonprofits. . . In these things there is no indication of the monetary value of these things, and perhaps they should have been. “

Rod’s previously stated that in addition to its contract, the company donates more than 100 cut trees each year, saving the city nearly $ 13,000.

After such a bidding process was completed, Ferguson said it would select the “suitable bidder,” be it WCA, Rod’s or United Pacific Services, who had contested the contract in the final bidding round.

Councilor James had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this writing.

For Rod’s, who has been the town’s arborist for more than 40 years, Richard Rodriguez said he and his team were “glad the council is helping the local business,” and that James and Ferguson wanted to turn down the offers.

“We are delighted that the council members have decided to support a local company like us,” said Rodriguez. “We’re just a local company, we live here in San Clemente, and in order to have litigation we feel awful. That’s not our intention, but it’s nice to see a city council advocating local business. “

Initially, the city launched a call for proposals for a three-year tree maintenance contract, for which both WCA and Rod’s submitted bids. The staff had recommended the WCA to get the contract because it had made the lowest bid. However, last April the council decided to reject the offers and create a new RFP for a five-year agreement.

Both companies again voted for the contract, with employees listing WCA as the winner based on the lowest bid. City councils voted in June to redesign the application process and prompt staff to develop a new policy on the process and selection of contractors.

The new directive, which was passed by the council in July, allowed the city to take other factors into account in addition to cost in tree maintenance contracts. In the final bid round, the city evaluated the three bidders – WCA, Rod’s and United Pacific – using a 100-point system.

The assessments carried out by three city officials were based, among other things, on sufficient knowledge of the local conditions, the experience of key project staff, the work plan and approach, the project experience and the cost proposal.

According to the city’s report, WCA was again the top contender, receiving the highest average score of 85. Rod’s had the lowest average score of 78, while United Pacific received an average score of 79.

“We were very surprised. We submitted the proposal – we worked in this city for 40 years. . . to see that an outside company was rated higher than us. . . “One puzzled Rodriguez said about the company’s score. He added, “We know these trees by heart. When it came to knowing the local area and executing the work plan, we’ve been here for 40 years. So it was surprising to get this low score. “

According to the report, the city still has $ 232,000 in this year’s tree maintenance budget. WCA’s suggested price was $ 219,200 and Rod was $ 266,520. United Pacific submitted an offer price of $ 196,500.

The city found that the asking prices represent a flat fee for “routine annual pruning at the fixed unit cost per tree”. Emergency costs would be added for needs-based services such as emergency response and the planting and removal of trees.

If WCA wins the contract, there will be approximately $ 12,000 in the city budget to cover unforeseen expenses.

After the meeting in June, when the city councils decided to reformulate the application process, the city entered into a monthly service contract with Rod’s. Rodriguez said last week that in light of the recent council meeting, he was unable to comment on the status of this treaty.

The decision not to join Rod’s for the long-term contract will have “huge effects” on the company, Rodriguez said.

“We have been an integral part of this community for a long time, and you know the city contract was a good part of our work. Depending on what the future holds, it could affect our business; it could drive us out of town, ”said Rodriguez.

According to the company, 80% of Rod’s employees are residents of San Clemente who “have a good relationship and relationship with city employees and other city contractors, as well as other members of the business community.

During the last council meeting, Rod’s received overwhelming support from the public for encouraging council members to select the local company for the contract.

“We are very humble and grateful to the church. . . At this last meeting, 50 community members wrote. So it’s great that the people of San Clemente are trying to stand up for business, ”said Rodriguez.

However, Mahoney said many of the speakers made “inaccurate” allegations against the WCA that Public Works Director Tom Bonigut was required to make to the council and correct.

“Much of the information that is shared by the public is not under oath and you don’t know who’s saying what. it’s inaccurate, ”said Mahoney.

One issue that had arisen was related to questions about the company’s security record, which led Ferguson to ask Bonigut if security records were included in the review of the contract.

“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 said Tuesday it would like the city to assess bidders’ safety performance by comparing their rate of change of experience – a set of insurance companies that are used to measure a company’s past injury costs and future risk probabilities.

“Based on all of the information people have brought up, I am here to represent the community and whenever there are incidents that raised them. . . These need to be investigated and hopefully the staff will examine them, ”said Ferguson.

At the time of this writing, Bonigut had not returned a call from the SC Times asking for comment.

Shawn Raymundo
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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