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Local business owners question city’s RFP process; Rejected bidders say their proposals were unfairly denied

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In the Daily Record’s conference room on Friday afternoon, Chris Martinez shares his insight on how the city’s decision regarding the fleet maintenance request for proposals will affect citizens and the economy by awarding the RFP to First Vehicle. Other proposers Shaun Ryan, Eric Wade, Marty Lightfoot, Hollis “Chip” Boardman, Terri Hollander and Cody and Lonnie Tucker agreed they were united — though they are both competitors and friends as well as taxpaying citizens. The group said they want the city to allow locals to rebid for the fleet maintenance proposal. (Alison Penn Photo)

Reporter’s note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A group of local businesspeople is questioning the city’s evaluation committee for recommending that the city council award a contract for the city’s fleet maintenance to an out-of-state company.

Eight local businesspeople representing four local companies last week came to the Roswell Daily Record office to voice concerns that locals are being pushed out of bidding to work on the city’s fleet. City Attorney Aaron Holloman, Chief Procurement Officer Lupita Everett and Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings responded during a conference call on Tuesday afternoon.

Fleet Manager Danny Renshaw said he cannot legally comment on the fleet Request for Proposal (RFP) at this time. Special Services Administrator and Project Manager Mike Mathews said he could not comment either about the fleet RFP because the council has not taken action. It will be on the council’s agenda Thursday.

So far the group of businesspeople has contacted City Councilors Caleb Grant and Jacob Roebuck to share their story, and the group plans to attend the city council meeting Thursday to voice their concerns. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Basset Auditorium in the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Last week, the group shared various frustrations, but agree they want the city’s fleet to run on good tires and be maintained adequately. Others shared that awarding this work to an out-of-state company would lead to unemployment and affect local businesses and families.

Representing Wildhorse Truck & Trailer Repair, Marty Lightfoot said it boiled down to three steps the group would like the city to take: keep it local; remove the bond requirement; and tailor the proposal to share exactly what the city wants for the fleet maintenance.

Others agreed they wanted the city council to reject the bid, so the companies could rebid with a more even playing field.

Bidder’s stories

Shaun Ryan of Forrest Tire has had the contract with the city for seven years and his proposal was refused for not having a cost proposal separate from his technical proposal.

Ryan said the RFP was “a nightmare” and vague, with missing information on how to dispute or protest an award — and while applying, he said the city left many unanswered questions. Ryan said eliminating all the locals was “terrible” and that the city could not negotiate, or make an educated decision, with only one proposal — the only one remaining after four proposals from local companies were rejected.

During his contract for fleet maintenance, Ryan said $750,000 was spent with local vendors and his company strives to buy local, from NAPA and other vendors, though it is more expensive. Ryan said he currently has 17 employees and thinks it is likely they will not be employed by First Vehicle, the Ohio-based company recommended by the evaluation committee.

“It’s been proven for seven years that locals, whether its me or any of these guys here, can handle the contract without any problems, without any hiccups, better than when First Vehicle had it the first time,” Ryan said. First Vehicle had the contract before Forrest Tire.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the staff has to follow state procurement guidelines, which include requirements to comply with state law and follow those procedures. Holloman also said the city is not able to choose based on a bidder’s location. Speaking in generalities, Holloman said the rejected proposers were deemed non-responsive for missing technical details necessary to the RFP.

“In no way is it the staff’s intention to try to exclude the local vendors,” Holloman said. “We just have to walk this line where we’ve got to follow that requirement that the state sets for us and try to ensure that process is followed.”

Cody Tucker of New Mexico Machinery said that First Vehicle was “destined to be awarded” because of the way the RFP was written. Lonnie Tucker was also present to represent New Mexico Machinery. Cody Tucker said the company intended to submit a bid — but could not make the deadline to get a bond. Saying he is familiar with bids, Cody Tucker said it looked like a state bid for construction.

Terri Hollander of Big-O Tires said she wanted to know if the city even read her proposal, because she provided what she thought were other alternatives for the maintenance of the city’s fleet.

All of the participants in last week’s meeting at the RDR agreed, as local taxpaying citizens and small business owners, that the best-case scenario would be that the city rejects the award to First Vehicle, creates a new RFP to allow re-bids, and it would be best to have a local business maintain the city’s fleet.

For Wildhorse Truck & Trailer Repair, Chris Martinez, Eric Wade and Marty Lightfoot sent a proposal to maintain the city’s fire apparatus — in response to a separate RFP — and were denied for not having a W-9, and had difficulty with the bond process. It was decided at the legal committee meeting that this RFP would be reissued. The group said they intend to re-bid.

Hollis “Chip” Boardman from Hawks Service Auto Repair also sent in his bid for fleet maintenance. Boardman said the RFP’s point system was confusing and that Ryan (Forrest Tire) was kicked out for “a silly housekeeping matter.”

“What it boils down to, honestly, is this the city of Roswell,” Marty Lightfoot said. “It should first and foremost pick one of the people that’s in this city. City strong, city taxes, city this — keep it homegrown like they’re always saying. These companies that are coming in from out of state or out of the city, they’re not going to hire any locals for employment — so there goes however many jobs from our local people here. The city — they want you to spend their money at home. Well, why isn’t the city spending their money at home? Why isn’t the city spending our money at home? It doesn’t make any sense.”

City’s response 

Holloman said it is the job of the procurement officer to decide if a bid is considered responsive or not. For non-responsive bids, Holloman said they are not read by the evaluation committee. Additionally, Holloman clarified technical requirements and minor items can be waived if it is in the best interest of the city. Holloman said in these rejected bids, it was not minor details or typographic errors, but rather missing items that were substantive to the proposal.

Holloman informed the RDR that the city adopted a new RFP procedure guide last November to create more clarity between staff and the city council’s expectations.

Revisiting the action taken at the legal committee on May 31, Holloman said there was an instance where councilors were concerned about bidders’ non-responsiveness and from that discussion, Holloman reiterated that it is important for the city staff to continue to evaluate how the bids are received and which responses are given to make sure they are clearer, to ensure proposals can be evaluated in the future.

In the situation of the fire apparatus RFP, Holloman explained that the evaluation committe said they wanted the fire apparatus RFP to be reevaluated — but with the fleet RFP, the committee recommended that the RFP could still be accepted.

Everett said each proposal is evaluated individually regarding the criteria, not to compare a contractor to another contractor. She said the process is to compare the evaluation criteria questions and how each proposal meets those questions.

Ryan said since First Vehicle is such a large company, this gives them an advantage on the bond requirement. In his contract with the city, Ryan said his company wasn’t bonded and there were no issues with bills being paid or vehicles not being done on time. This led him to question why having a bond is relevant to the city now.

When questioned about requirement for bonds, Holloman said the bond requirements are built into the state statute as well.

Final Questions

In regards to the proposers questioning the city’s choice to give business to an out-of-state company, Holloman said tension is felt in all small, local governments and that the government must make a choice within the best interest of the city.

During the application process, Wade said the city danced around questions, offering unspecific answers — or just copying and pasting state statutes and sections of the RFP as answers. Cody Tucker said he asked a question and said two addenda were sent out before his question was answered weeks later.

Boardman said on the question Tucker asked, the city “copy and pasted an answer” from the proposal that belonged with the first addendum.

Public Affair Director Juanita Jennings said all questions pertaining to the RFP go through Everett and have to be answered through addenda, and that process was followed. Everett said she went to the department head and the project manager to answer those questions, especially questions pertaining to technical aspects.

Holloman said the staff and evaluation committee are limited in the way they can look at bids because of their various roles in the process and added that the city council can decide whether or not they believe the process functioned adequately.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.