Aldermen rejected a low bid for grass cutting services to the city and approved the current lawn service company to continue cutting for the rest of the season, setting up a confrontation with Mayor Jeff Palmore.
Included on the July 9 board of aldermen meeting agenda was a resolution authorizing the mayor to execute a contract with Accola & Sons Lawn Care for the grass cutting of city property.
Aldermen previously rejected awarding the contract to Accola & Sons at their April 21 meeting. Accola’s bid was $49,840 for the season and Early Bird Maintenance submitted a bid for $85,260.
At that meeting, aldermen said they were worried that the low bidder, who had not provided service to the city in the past, possibly did not understand the scope of the work.
The board also said the second bid was so high that the city could not work it into the budget. One reason for the unexpected cost was that the 21 flood buyout properties had been added to the list of properties.
The mayor was asked to prepare a new bid package and advertise for bids. The same two contractors sent in bids, which Palmore brought to the July 9 meeting.
Palmore asked aldermen to approve a resolution authorizing him to enter into a contract with Accola & Sons, the low bidder, but aldermen voted 5-1 to deny the resolution with Mike Bates casting the dissenting vote.
Alderman Ed Gass then made a motion to allow the current vendor to cut the city grass for the remainder of the summer, which aldermen approved.
Gass made a second motion for the mayor to prepare a bid request to be advertised in January 2016 and open bids and award a contract by the last meeting in February.
Palmore pressed aldermen to give an explanation of why they would reject a low bid.
Alderman Steve Myers said he did not believe the bid process was fair from the start. He said the process appeared to be flawed when a second round of bids allowed public knowledge of what was bid before.
“Bidding should be competitive,” Myers said. “The bid amount was fully disclosed. How is that fair to bidders?”
Palmore said the original bidding was done with sealed bids and the board of aldermen rejected the bids even though each bidder stood by his bid.
“There were no complaints from the parties in regard to their original bids,” Palmore said. “Once we better defined areas to be cut they came back with similar bids and the board rejected the low bid a second time.
“I want everyone to know who voted against this,” the mayor added. “I am opposed to going against the bid process.”
Bates, who cast the no vote, said he did not understand why his fellow aldermen rejected the bid.
“Only a couple of times in the past have we rejected the low bid,” Bates said. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Gass said the entire summer of 2015 had been handled wrong and placed the current vendor in a bad position.
Alderman Carol Johnson said she wanted to go on record that for more than a year grass cutting had been one of the biggest issues the city had. She said she encouraged the mayor to get help from the state employment program with grass cutting.
“You looked at this when it was budget time,” Johnson addressed the mayor. “You said, ‘I do not like to see our city workers out there cutting grass.’ You said, ‘either we’re going to bid it all out or we’re going to cut it all.’ I assumed I would be bidding on all the grass.”
Johnson said it looked like the low bidder did not understand the bid process.
“If I thought Mr. Accola did not get a fair process I’d be right here defending him,” she said. “This man (Ken Devillez, Early Bird owner) has been up here every two weeks. All we’re asking is because we are so far into the season let this man do it.”
Palmore said the bid package that went out was an atrocity because it was incomplete and did not define properties. However, he said, the same bid package had been sent out for the past three years.
The mayor said he wants to move on because there is nothing further he can do.
“I just want to go on record as saying, ‘This process stinks,’ ” Palmore said.
Alderman Heather Filley said her reason for rejecting Accola’s bid was that the firm did not have a city of Pacific business license or insurance and gave no indication of how quickly they could provide that documentation.
“That’s my concern and why I could not vote for that,” Filley said.
Alderman Mike Pigg said he had raised the question of a city business license and insurance at the April meeting.
“I asked if both had business licenses and Jeff (Palmore) said yes,” Pigg said.
Palmore said Accola doesn’t have a city business license at the present time because he doesn’t do business in the city now, but if he were awarded the contract he would acquire a license.
“I want it on record that I am against this,” said Palmore, adding that next year he would prepare a bid package and do it the right way. He said he hopes aldermen would approve the low bidder.
“If aldermen reject the low bidder, I hope voters will respond at the (April 2016) election and vote them out of office,” Palmore said.