Sun, Dec. 15

Bidding is getting tougher

Contractor Tom Mulcaire

Contractor Tom Mulcaire

The City of Cottonwood continues to struggle with a revised bidding process. The process has raised some hackles, among bidders and the city council. This last week one bidder challenged that the process was flawed. And the council agreed to delay the decision.

The problem seems to be that Cottonwood's new process is complicated and favors professional out of town bidders, seemingly leaving local bidders out to dry. The change is aggravated by the weak economy that is making all contractors more hungry for work.

That especially infuriates some city council members, who would like to see local contractors offered jobs.

City Attorney Steven Horton told the board that he urged changes in the city's past practices to assure that Cottonwood complies with current state law. He says professional services must satisfy state mandates to determining the most qualified applicant first, before negotiating the cost of services.

During an earlier meeting, the council was not happy with the process to select an architect, which ranked a Tucson firm the highest.

Tuesday, the council was scheduled to hire a firm to do the city's emergency underground work, when a water line fails, for example.

Utilities Director Dan Lueder recommended that contract be awarded to Tiffany Construction of Sedona.

But another bidder, Tommy Mulcaire of Mulcaire and Sons Contracting, was hot under the collar and felt that Tiffany, which has done the work in the past, had been favored.

Five firms had submitted proposals. It is the third time the city has bid out the work, in order to attract more bidders and fine tune the process. And because of the earlier confusion, all the judging material from the "selection committee" was included in the council's packet. Twenty points were allowed for experience, 20 points for references and 30 points for hourly rates. Morgan Scott the city engineer developed the scoring system. Two utility employees also judged the proposals.

Mulcaire told the council, he had worked in the Verde Valley for 44 years and was the first contractor approved to put in water lines and has now installed 86,000 feet of line. He claims the "selection committee" process is just a tool "so that Dan Lueder can pick who he wants."

"They just asked stupid questions," Mulcaire said. "Tiffany has carte blanche. I want justification."

Lueder in response, told the council he had actually helped to craft the process " to even up the playing field."

Manager Doug Bartosh recalled that the contract had been bid twice before and that Mulcaire's bid had been disqualified as "non-responsive."

The council was not happy.

"For 17 years I have been on the council and I have never seen this kind of bidding, I don't like the RFP (Request for Proposals). It's confusing. I want the bottom line price."

"I want to see this bidding as transparent," Tim Elinski urged. "Can't we develop a standardized form?"

With the greater documentation, Councilman Duane Kirby thought the process was better than the architectural bids, but suggested, "We need to provide training for the vendors and do as much as we can to educate local contractors."

Bartosh admitted that more local contractors are coming to the city because of the slugging economy.

"Some cities have entire purchasing departments to handle these issues," said the city attorney.

Councilman Terrence Pratt made a motion to table the issue for another meeting and allow the city to get more information. The board agreed.

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