The Fairhope City Council awarded a $1.2 million low bid for disaster debris removal and disposal to Pittman Tractor, a company owned by State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), at its regular meeting June 8.
Pittman Tractor has held the city’s contract for disaster debris removal since 2012, when it won with a low bid of $1,062,255.
This year, Pittman’s bid defeated Asplundh at $1,364,987, Crowder Gulf at $1,404,000, DRC Emergency Services at $1,686,960 and Phillips and Jordan’s at $1,728,000.
Reporting in Lagniappe from July 2014 shows that the city extended its contract with Pittman Tractor for the second and final allowable time last year.
The contract is a requirement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and must be in place before storms hit. The city would be responsible for about 10 percent of the contract in the event of a disaster, with the state and FEMA paying the bulk.
In 2010 an ethics complaint was filed by Fairhope resident Paul Ripp against Pittman, alleging his company had no business bidding for a project to provide protectant boom around the Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear and beaches in Fairhope using BP oil spill funds, while he had been tasked by then Gov. Bob Riley to preside over emergency funds in the senate.
The Alabama Ethics Commission closed that case in February 2011, and City Council President Jack Burrell said Monday Fairhope had received permission from the commission May 4 to approve the new bid.
“The commission says that as long as (Pittman) follows the letter of the law, he can be a member of the city and can be awarded this bid,” Burrell said.
The city uses figures from disaster removal during Hurricane Ivan to compare bids at about 108,000 cubic yards of debris.
“This is a very unusual bid that you are not bidding a finite item or service,” purchasing manager Dan Ames explained. “We don’t know what the next hurricane is going to do so we use the Ivan standard so we can compare the numbers. The lowest responsive and responsible bidder was Pittman Tractor, so our recommendation is to award the bid to Pittman Tractor.”
Burrell said in the previous week he was contacted by one of the losing bidders who believed they had in fact been the lowest bidder. Burrell said the company was the lowest bidder on the first three items, but were higher on others and “not responsive” on other items.
He said the bidder did not submit a signature page or the financial information the city requested, so its bid would likely have been rejected even if it had been the lowest.
“I say that just to let you know the degree to which this bid is scrutinized,” Burrell said. “I feel like everything was done to the letter of the law, the letter of our city ordinances and to the way we do bids.”
The council approved the bid with a 4-0 vote. Councilman Rich Mueller was not present at the meeting.
In other business, the council approved the purchase of $1,054,219 in Musco Sports Lighting materials from Birmingham-based Graybar Electric Company for the electrical department to be used at the Fairhope Soccer Complex on Manley Road.
The project was not competitively bid, instead the city will use the US Communities buying group, which is allowed by state code. In a letter from Fairhope Public Utilities Superintendent Scott Sligh to Ames, Sligh said the city of Foley selected Musco Lighting at a $130,000 per field price, while Fairhope’s per field price is $117,000 per field not installed.
Sligh’s letter says Musco Lighting is easier to install and uses approximately 60 percent fewer light fixtures than competitors. The lights will be covered by a 25-year warranty including everything but fuse replacement.
The council also approved a resolution authorizing the city to request between $200,000 to $300,000 from the federally-funded Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (ESMPO) for installation of a transit shelter hub for Baldwin Regional Area Transit System buses in downtown Fairhope.
The ESMPO asks all member cities to pass resolutions requesting funding before it will approve anything. Federal law requires a 20 percent match for local projects utilizing federal funds, so the city would be responsible for $40,000 to $60,000 for the hub.
Public Works Director Jennifer Fidler said Monday the funds would most likely not be in the next fiscal year.
“We don’t have a specific location yet but this resolution doesn’t say that, they just want a resolution to commit to its percent of funding,” Fidler said.
Burrell is a member of the ESMPO Policy Board.
“What the MPO wants to know is if the city is behind it before they put it on the funding list,” Burrell said. “We don’t want to waste the MPO’s time on something that isn’t supported by the city itself.”
Fidler said the $200,000 to $300,000 estimate came from a preliminary design of a hub that would be located behind the Fairhope Museum of History on Section Street. She said the location is not definite, but the price is high because the hub would have to comply with the design installed behind the museum.
Councilman Mike Ford questioned the projected cost of the hub.
“To match the architectural rendering of the backside of the museum, it is two stories back there and glass,” Fidler said. “It is very nice, Spanish style architecture.”
Fidler said the hub would be big enough for BRATS buses and will be handicap accessible. Councilwoman Diana Brewer asked if a transportation hub would make what she called a difficult parking situation behind the museum worse.
“I’m curious what the hub is for,” Brewer said. “Is it for people who want to visit Fairhope without adding more cars? It is going to be a problem back there if people use the lot for a ‘park-and-ride.’”
The city also approved the hiring of Interim City Treasurer Deborah A. Smith to replace retiring Nancy K. Wilson.