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Local company loses out on airport engineering contract

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This article coincides with the following April 9, 2019 BOCC agenda item:

Purchasing and Contracts Manager James Wunderle
7. Continuation of Discussion Regarding Approval of Ranking Order and Authorization of Contract Negotiations With Highest-Ranked Firms for Airport Engineering Services (RFQ No. 18-RG0128/PH)

In Aug. 2018, the county issued a Request for Proposals for extensive engineering services at the airport.  The awarded companies would receive a 5 year contract.  

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Final ranking of the top 4 companies are as follows:

1. Avcon, Inc., 99.30
2. Michael Baker International, 95.70
3. Coastal Engineering Associates, 94.95
4. Infrastructure Consulting & Engineering, 92.35

In March 2019, Cliff Manuel with Coastal Engineering requested the county contract with the top 3 ranked firms.

The ranking and contract discussion was continued at the April 9, 2019 BOCC meeting. After a rigorous discussion of the rules and procedures with regard to their application to this RFQ,  Commissioner Steve Champion motioned to award the top three firms the contract for engineering services.   The motion was seconded by Commissioner Wayne Dukes, and failed by a 2-3 vote.

Commissioner John Allocco motioned to award the top two firms the contract, which was seconded by Commissioner John Mitten.   This motion passed 3-2, with Champion and Dukes dissenting. 

The following history and explanation was provided in the agenda materials:

“At the December 11, 2018, Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting (Doc ID No. 15097), after presentation by the Chief Procurement Officer, public comment was heard with comments and discussion seeking the Board to hear oral presentations from all four (4) firms. The Board approved such public request for the Board members to hear and the Board members to score the oral presentations. The oral presentations were performed by all four (4) proposers in front of the Board members at a special meeting on January 22, 2019… Upon completion of the oral presentations, the Board performed consensus scoring and signed the score sheet to include the tabulation of oral presentation points added to prior PSRC consensus scored points for identification of: total point scores and final ranking of the four (4) firms.”

The BOCC’s consensus scoring actions resulted in the final scoring and final ranking of all four (4) firms, in highest to lowest ranking order as provided in the beginning of this article. 

Cliff Manuel of Coastal Engineering Associates addressed the board, “I would like to bring to the attention of the board a couple of things, because my reputation is at stake in this conversation … I believe the process should be open, predictable and transparent, in the sunshine.  Everyone should work on consistent adopted policies in the county.”   

Manuel stated that in 2015, the board adopted a procurement policy, which gave guidelines to contractors who want to work for the county.   In those guidelines, the location of the firm, and primary office of the firm can be considered. “The final ranking,” Manuel said, “Is the BOCC.  There is no ranking until the board votes.”   According to Manuel, the 2015 policy states that the BOCC will vote on no fewer than three firms, and that the consultant or contractor is given the opportunity to address the voting authority regarding any problems or inconsistencies in the RFQ process. 

Manuel questioned the predictability in this process, and why the weight of location was reduced to 0 from 15.  He added that he also lost points on airport experience, because only the past five years were considered. 

Mike Coppage with Avcon was present and given the opportunity to speak as well summarized that he would be comfortable with any decision the board makes.

Richard Ross of Hernando county added, “According to the RFQ, there will be two consultants selected.  Deadlines for questions was 9/12/18, so anything that was unclear, not transparent, not obvious should have been questioned.”   Ross, reading from the guidelines, added that protests to the ranking should have taken place before 9/12/18, and also that before oral presentations, the firms were to be submitted to the BOCC without ranking, however this was not the case.  “Also, the request for oral presentations by Coastal occurred within the cone of silence.”

Regarding the consideration of location, Ross said, “Coastal was ranked #2 for location by the committee prior to the board getting involved.”  

Commissioner Steve Champion stated he also didn’t like the way “points were moved around,” resulting in a lower rank.  “Coastal is a local company that’s completed hundreds of projects out there.”  While adding that Avcon and Michael Baker International were firms specifically focused on airports, Champion said that they will probably subcontract non-aviation items such as water and sewer related tasks.  

Champion said he also thinks the local preference should have been weighted.

Commissioner John Mitten said the following, summarizing all points expressed; “This is a business owner doing what ought to be done for his employees, and his business, so I do not fault anyone from taking the necessary steps.” 

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