The Fairhope City Council voted July 24 to award its conditional disaster debris removal and disposal contract to the lowest responsive and responsible vendor — D&J Enterprises Inc. of Auburn — effectively ending an arrangement the city had since 2012 with State Sen. Trip Pittman, who chose not to seek another term in the Legislature this year in favor of a bid for the U.S. Senate.
The annual contract must be rebid every three years, but extensions can be granted to existing contractors within the three-year time frame. Pittman said unlike last year, he was never approached about exercising an extension on his existing contract, which was approved in 2015. Rather, he received new bid documents in January.
“That was our notification that [the city] was going to seek new bids,” he said. “We just made the decision to — with what was going on with the state budget and possibly running for [the U.S. Senate] seat — just decided not to rebid.”
At the City Council meeting July 24, Council President Jack Burrell lamented Mayor Karin Wilson’s decision to rebid, noting D&J’s low bid of just under $1.8 million is still $115,000 more than it would cost to extend Pittman Tractor Co.’s contract for an additional year.
“Every nickel we save is a nickel earned in this city,” Burrell said, before Wilson defended her decision by stating the extension needed to be negotiated before the contract expired earlier this month.
“I’ve talked to Trip and he chose not to bid, but he didn’t send a letter to negotiate the extension either,” Wilson said. “Regardless, if I’m going to ask for something to be re-bid, because I want fresh eyes and new opportunity for all, because I’m a new mayor, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Wilson and Burrell both acknowledged any “savings” Pittman’s contract would have generated were purely hypothetical, as the contract only pays out if a natural disaster indeed occurs. But Burrell shot back, accusing Wilson of playing politics.
“I think the reason you did it … you did it because you wanted Pittman Tractor Company out,” he said, “We all know why you did it — you wanted him out. … We know what we’re doing on this, our staff knows what they’re doing on this. We didn’t need an attorney to look at this.”
Burrell said if the city does have to exercise the contract with D&J, “it will cost the city money for no good reason at all.”
Talking over each other, Wilson called Burrell’s comments “out of line” and said she “spent a lot of unnecessary time doing it because it came in so late.”
“I’m doing this for the city, OK? Having these options for the city is important and it’s not because I didn’t want Pittman to have the contract — everybody has a fair chance to rebid when I request a rebid.”
The council — including Burrell — voted unanimously to award the new contract to D&J.