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Council votes to reject fleet maintenance proposal; Decision comes after local businesses criticize RFP process

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Shaun Ryan, owner of Forrest tire, provides input on the City of Roswell’s request for proposals for maintenance of the city’s fleet during Thursday’s city council meeting. Ryan has held the fleet maintenance contract for the past seven years and gathered local supporters, including competitors, to fill around 40 seats in Basset Auditorium for the meeting. City Attorney Aaron Holloman and Elizabeth Gilbert, director of administrative services, listen and Cody Tucker of New Mexico Machinery and Hollis “Chip” Boardman wait to speak. (Alison Penn Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Roswell City Council on Thursday voted to reject both the fleet maintenance and fire apparatus requests for proposals (RFP).

The move on the fleet maintenance RFP comes after outcry from a number of local business owners who felt their proposals were unfairly rejected by the city’s evaluation committee. That committee wound up recommending an Ohio-based company, First Vehicle, for the fleet maintenance work.

Councilor Judy Stubbs amended a motion on the fleet maintenance topic to read that all bids submitted in response to the proposal be rejected, and a new RFP be advertised — after staff and the legal committee have had adequate time to review and rewrite the RFP. Councilor Caleb Grant seconded, and the amended motion carried unanimously.

After her amendment, Stubbs stated the RFP process is complicated and the fleet maintenance RFP is a high-dollar item for the taxpayers of the city. Stubbs said the staff is reviewing the RFP process to see if there is a way to streamline it. Business owners who met at the Roswell Daily Record office last week complained about the complexity of the RFP process, including calling it “a nightmare” and vague.

Stubbs also reminded the council that the current contract is extended until Dec. 31, with monthly extensions if necessary.

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Saying Thursday’s city council meeting could not have gone any better, Shaun Ryan, of Forrest Tire — which currently maintains the city’s fleet — said the city’s action represented a huge success and accomplished what citizens were hoping for.

He said it took a whole community and competitors to stand together on the issue, to share what they believed to be in the best interest of the city. He said he did not expect a unanimous vote from the council after sending a letter to the entire council. The bottom line, Ryan said, is he hopes the city has learned that the RFP process needs to be more local-friendly.

Ryan said he was impressed with how informed the councilors were and said Forrest Tire will continue to maintain the fleet while the city revises the fleet RFP.

Councilor Judy Stubbs said her concern over potential confusion about the RFP process — not so much the outcome of the motion — was the main motivation for her amended motion. Noting an increasing trend of rejecting RFPs, Stubbs emphasized that the city has “very little control” since state statute and the Department of Finance and Administration supersede what can be done on the city’s end.

Councilor Caleb Grant said he thought it was not fiscally responsible to make a decision with only one proposal — First Vehicle’s, the only one not rejected by committee — and the citizens reaching out did have an influence.

Public comment

When Councilor Juan Oropesa asked City Attorney Aaron Holloman to speak on the issue, Holloman said city staff was acting in the appropriate capacity and that the council had an opportunity to see if the procedure worked, and whether it fulfilled the goal of seeking the best value for the city.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh asked that the council vote on the amendment prior to public comment, so citizens could directly share their thoughts on the matter at hand.

Ryan argued that the fleet maintenance proposal was similar to another proposal, for fire apparatus maintenance, in ambiguity — and both proposals deserved revisions. He also alleged the elimination of all of the local proposals happened covertly.

Sharing his experience with protesting the RFP, Ryan said his protest was in compliance with state statute and that the procurement office had been incorrect in assessing that he had to protest on specific grounds.

Referencing Holloman’s statement in the June 13 RDR article about items missing from the proposals, Ryan reiterated his bid’s rejection happened because of a missing sealed envelope and argued that this error was not substantive to the proposal.

“With only one proposal making is through the process (First Vehicle’s) and the fleet maintenance contract being a multimillion-dollar agreement, the city of Roswell could not possibly make an informed, educated decision as to its fate,” Ryan said.

Hollis “Chip” Boardman from Hawks Service asked for a clarification of the point system and said there should be more understanding about the difference between a maintenance and construction RFP, which requires a bond. Boardman said he appreciated the city’s action to revise the RFP and create more fairness for proposers.

Bidders on the fire apparatus RFP from Wildhorse Truck & Trailer Repair, Chris Martinez and Marty Lightfoot, said they were happy and assumed other bidders and companies were happy with councilors’ decision following the local business owners’ plea for fairness. Lightfoot said the bid is now “back in the ballpark.” Martinez said as a citizen he has a vested interest in ensuring the city’s vehicles are well taken care of because it could otherwise affect the livelihood of his family and community at large.

“The police department, our trash pick up, anything that pertains to the city — we take pride in our city and we want our city to function at it highest capacity,” Lightfoot said.

Bond

During public participation at Thursday’s meeting, Terri Hollander from Big O Tires asked for the bid bond requirement be taken out of the RFP process and referenced a state statute to support her argument. Cody Tucker shared New Mexico Machinery’s experience of not having enough time in the bond process. Tucker said he knew other bids were rejected if the bond was missing and also petitioned the council for the bond to be removed.

Hollander said she felt that the city did the right thing by choosing to reject the fleet maintenance RFP and create a new one. However, she said the issue locals have will remain unchanged if the bid and performance bonds are kept and thinks the city should look into large fleet management entities for best results.

Hollander added that she was “amazed” how many people Ryan rallied around this issue — which was apparent after the matter was voted on and around 40 seats were vacated by the bidders, their families, and employees from the four companies.

Though he said it makes sense to have a bond on a construction bid, Ryan said the required performance bond is incorrect for maintenance and is not adequate grounds for rejection. Ryan attempted to protest that parameters for the bond created an unfair advantage for larger companies. Ryan said the issue will remain if the bond stays.

Boardman also asked the council to reconsider the bond requirement. Though he understood the state statute, Boardman stated the bond does not have any bearing upon a maintenance contract. He added the bond is for services rendered and said the contractors were more at risk than the city.

Councilor Stubbs said she was unsure of what changes could happen in regard to the bond requirement and Councilor Grant said he would continue conversations with Holloman. Holloman said one function of the bid bond is to ensure a sign of the fiscal stability of the contractors — and the performance bond is a state requirement.

Fire apparatus 

The council also voted unanimously to terminate the fire apparatus proposal as recommended by the evaluation committee. Grant asked for clarity on the evaluation committee’s choice and Holloman explained the only responsive bid of two submitted was determined by the committee to fall short of the city’s needs.

During discussion on the fire apparatus RFP, Grant asked about changes in the re-issuance. Holloman said the performance bond must remain and the bid bond does not. Holloman said it was determined to be in the best interest of the city to not have the bid bond requirement — but rather ask for a letter from a bond company to prove “the bondability” of a contractor.

Holloman added this decision was made prior to the meeting and not in response to the comments during Thursday’s public participation.

Holloman said a performance bond secures the performance of the contractor and is important in case of a catastrophic failure on the company’s part, where the city would have to go through a secondary contracting situation. Holloman said the bond creates a stopgap so that city will not have to expend funds based on the failure of a contractor.

When question by Councilor Barry Foster, Holloman said a bid bond will not be required in the proposal — but will be considered during the contract negotiation process.

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

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