Levy Court’s bid process for trash contracts holds up in court

 

DOVER — Kent County’s new bid process for selecting trash pickup providers held up last week after a company’s claims of unfair practices were discounted in court.

Camden-based Charlie’s Waste Services alleged in Chancery Court that its low bid for a service contract was improperly dismissed in favor of two contractors chosen by a three-member committee and approved in Levy Court.

A 16-page order issued on May 31, however, recounted the county’s troubles associated with past automatic low bid selections and positively noted the criteria and evaluations that ended with the choice of Waste Industries of Delaware and Republic Services of Delmarva to handle local waste removal.

Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III pointed to supposed shortcomings in Charlie’s quest for the contract, including a submitted bid with erroneous insurance information, lack of required financial, no letters of recommendation and no bid bond.

“As the County correctly points out, any of these omissions provided grounds for the County to reject Charlie’s bid without any further consideration, as it was entitled to do by statute and the (Invitation to Bid Contract),” Vice Chancellor Slights determined.

Describing his review of the matter as done “carefully” Mr. Slights wrote “I am satisfied that the County officials charged with overseeing the award of this contract believed, and ultimately determined, that Charlie’s was not qualified to perform the particular work required to fulfill (the contract put out for bid.)”

Significant concerns remained after Charlie’s added information to the bid, according to the order.

The Vice Chancellor referenced county concerns about Charlie’s aged equipment and ability to service it with an apparently inadequate staff.

“In this regard, Charlie’s bid materials indicated that it had arranged for only one mechanic to service its fleet of older equipment,” Vice Chancellor Slights said.

“And it was not clear that this mechanic would be located in Kent County or that Charlie’s service facility would be located in Kent County either.”

The Court cited the county’s concern that Charlie’s had not previously administered such a substantial municipal service and “did not convince the County that it could ramp up to handle a contract of this scale.”

A dearth of staff to answer complaints was also a concern regarding Charlie’s candidacy, the Vice Chancellor wrote.

“All of these deficiencies were deemed even more troubling by the County officials given the County’s immediate past history of having awarded the trash collection contract to the lowest bidder only to find that that contractor was wholly unprepared and unable to deliver the necessary services,” he said.

Issues, requirements

According to the order, Kent County was dissatisfied with current trash services — determined by low bid during the last procurement — “and has, in fact, determined that the contractor was not qualified to do the required work. Vice Chancellor Slights listed ongoing issues, including:

•Missed pickups.

•Destruction of trashcans and other property.

•Poor vehicle maintenance.

•Poorly trained personnel.

“In fact, the County has had to hire others on an emergency basis to fulfill the contract as a stopgap,” Vice Chancellor Slights said.

The county thus expanded its process for selecting upcoming trash services, requiring prospective providers demonstrate:

•A history of providing equipment and services of comparable specifications, scope and value.

•The background, experience, resources, reputation, financial resources, years in business and references.

•Customer service i.e. method of addressing missed cans, special events, guaranteed turnaround times for cart maintenance, and other customer service items.

•The bid and pricing structure.

Also required for consideration were a bid bond, three work-related references, three letters of recommendation from current municipal contracts in the State of Delaware and documentation of insurance coverage with a General Aggregate Limit of Liability of $5,000,000, the order read.

The county enlisted three staff to evaluate the bids — Director of Public Works Andrew Jakubowitch, Director of Finance Susan L. Durham, and Administrator Michael J. Petit de Mange.

In unanimous fashion, the trio of evaluators scored Waste Industries and Republic as the most qualified bidders and recommended them for the contracts, the order stated.

According to Judge Slights, Charlie’s contention that one evaluators score of 91 out of 100 qualified it for the contract fell short because “Nothing in the record indicates that the lone voice of an evaluator or a Commissioner would have any binding effect on the County’s ultimate decision regarding the award of this contraction.

“Moreover, the fact that one of the evaluators gave a score of 91 does not undermine his clear testimony … that he deemed Charlie’s not qualified to perform the contract.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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