A $1 million difference between bidders vying for Branford’s refuse-hauling contract is being challenged.
The challenge began at last week's Board of Selectmen's meeting. The BOS decided not to decide on the matter until the town attorney could review complaints from both sides to determine any liability a bid acceptance might create for the town. Because the challenged low bid was already scheduled for review by the Board of Finance, it will remain on tonight's (March 25) agenda.
Attorneys and owners from both sides faced the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on March 20, prompted by an agenda item seeking to reward the contract to low-bidder Waste Tech Family Refuse of Branford. The contract, which went out to bid in February, brought back competing bids from the current contractor, National Carting Co. of Branford, and Waste Tech.
The attorney for National Carting called into question whether Waste Tech was underbidding the work to get the contract, and also whether the company had the proper experience to handle a municipality of Branford’s scope. Waste Tech has Branford-based commercial and private hauling accounts with entities including condominium associations.
Waste Tech’s attorney countered the company had plans to increase it truck fleet, should the town accept its bid. National Carting’s attorney also called into question the references Waste Tech supplied to the Solid Waste Management Commission (SWMC), which had unanimously voted to recommend the BOS accept Waste Tech’s bid. But SWMC chair Mario Ricozzi answered he had also called entities outside of the references given and was satisfied with the contacts he had made.
Both companies are vying for what equates to a five-year contract. The contract is firm for three consecutive years followed by optional service continuation each year for two years. Waste Tech bid $3,425,000 for five years of service. National Carting bid $4,681,839 for the same duration.
Ricozzi sat between the two sides as company owners and attorneys bounced questions off each other and the BOS on March 20. Through it all, Ricozzi told the BOS that the commission felt Waste Tech met the required criteria for the job.
Waste Tech owner Paul Santa Barbara assured the BOS that his company’s bid was a responsible low bid and also called into question the reason why the bid from National Carting was so much higher.
First Selectman Anthony “Unk” DaRos said the discrepancy between the two bids, more than $1.25 million dollars, could not be ignored. Former selectman John Opie suggested the contractors give an outline as to what their generic costs are; but DaRos said he doubted they would be willing share it, nor would they be obligated to provide that information.
Noting National Carting was a “known entity” which had provided “good service to the town,” and that Waste Tech was “another entity, that is very familiar with the town,” DaRos said the question, “…ends up being, are you willing to spend a million to be comfortable, or are you willing (to take) a million dollar gamble?”
As the current contract doesn’t expire until July 2013, the BOS erred on the side of caution, tabling the item and assigning the town attorney to hear the complaints brought by both sides, in order address the town’s liability in accepting a bid due to those challenges. The BOS also agreed the Board of Finance should review the SWMC bid recommendation, as scheduled, at its March 25 meeting. The BOS is now expected to vote on the matter in April.