Contract concerns threaten recycling money
South Lake Tahoe could miss out on a nearly $400,000 grant from the State of California following concerns over a contract for the manufacturing of recycling bins.
On Tuesday, the South Lake Tahoe City Council voted to restart the bidding process for more than 200 bear-proof recycling bins to be paid for by a $394,000 recycling grant from the Department of Conservation.
Last week, bidders Tahoe Bearbox Company and BearSaver protested award of the contract to Carson Valley Welding, contending the company did not meet the city’s requirements. The company’s owner, Don Heldoorn, defended his bid package Tuesday.
But several council members said they were uncomfortable with modifications to the city’s requirements following the conclusion of the bidding process, including changes to the type of metal to be used and the actual number of bear boxes ordered.
City Attorney Patrick Enright said he felt the manner the bids were accepted would stand up in court because the changes did not alter the successful bidder.
Still, the council voted 4 to 0 to cancel all bids and restart the bid process. Mayor Claire Fortier was not at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Councilman Bruce Grego mentioned a contract dispute that slowed work on the Lakeview Commons project at El Dorado Beach in favoring a restart of the bidding process.
Money from the grant needs to be encumbered by the end of May or it will go back to California.
“I’m a little uncomfortable about some of the imperfections,” Grego said. “We got burnt pretty badly with Lakeview Commons. I know there’s bid deadlines or grant deadlines, but I’m concerned. I think we should do this again.”
The council’s vote will actually cause the contract to be bid for a third time. The first bid was canceled and rebid after schematic drawings proprietary to BearSaver were used in the city’s bid documents, said South Lake Tahoe buyer Gary O’Neill.
The city has already received a one-year extension on the funding because of transitions in city staff, Community Services Director Stan Sherer told the council. A lawsuit over the contract could require the city to request a second one-year extension on the grant.
Councilwoman Angela Swanson said she didn’t want to trust the state giving another extension in such a tight fiscal environment.
Following the council’s vote to rebid, the city should still be able to meet the state’s deadline without an extension, City Manager Tony O’Rourke reassured the council. He said staff will work with the state to explain the situation.
“I think you can still encumber these funds in time to meet the requirements of the grant,” O’Rourke said.
The item is expected to be back before the council April 17.
The goal of the grant is to increase beverage container recycling per capita by 15 percent in South Lake Tahoe, according to a 2010 staff report. The city was one of four cities statewide targeted for partnership with the Department of Conservation. The grant was originally awarded in 2008, but the state froze the funds for more than a year.
In other news:
n The City Council approved participation in a study group to examine the possible consolidation of Lake Valley Fire Protection District and South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.
City Fire Chief Brian Uhler said the consolidation talks are at a “very early stage.” The study group could result in the status quo, increased contracting with the fire protection district for services within city limits or the creation of a completely new organization, Uhler said.
Although the city’s push to save money is driving the possibility of consolidation, City Councilwoman Angela Swanson said the consolidation will only happen if the needs of the community and city employees are met.
The study group is expected to meet bi-weekly. Council members Swanson and Tom Davis were appointed to the study group by the council.