Bidder questions why high bid got county janitorial contract

By Genine Hopkins

In the Review edition of May24, 2013, it was reported that Bill Schuh, of Schuh’s Cleaning, expressed dismay at the awarding of the janitorial contract for the county building to AWOL.  It was erroneously reported that Schuh’s Cleaning held the contract prior to the new contract dated June 1, 2013, but in fact it was AWOL who was both the new winning bid and the prior years’ contract.  That however, has become a moot point, as the Review received copies of the interview notes from the Commissioners who were in attendance and County Administrator Tracy Byard, as well as the actual bids submitted.  Copies of said documents were obtained by Schuh per  FOIA.

What has surfaced is questions regarding why the county contracted with AWOL, when their bid was the highest.

According to the bids, AWOL was the highest bid, coming in at $244,602 for the three year contract, with Schuh’s bid at $224,526 and Just Cleaning’s bid at $130,500; it should be noted that Just Cleaning’s bid was for roughly half the hours per week of cleaning compared to Schuh’s Cleaning and AWOL.  With the county’s shrinking dollars, what Schuh questioned was the county’s choice of AWOL, despite their high bid.

In reviewing documents provided by Bill Schuh through his FOIA request, interview notes seem to play a pivotal role, especially when confirmed by the interviewers.  Although none of the interviewers contacted provided any additional information outside of the scope of Mr. Schuh’s, they did confirm that answers in the notes, which included each interviewer’s ranking of the three companies that took part in said interviews, were the deciding factor.

According to the county’s purchasing policy, discretion is allowed when deciding which company or entity to contract with for any given expenditure.   “Clare County reserves the right to accept or reject any and all bids deemed to be in the best interest of the County,” is in the bidding process procedure language.  Additionally, consideration of “the sufficiency…and ability of the bidder to perform the contract” should be taken into account, as well as the “adaptability of the supplies or contractual services to the particular use required” must be reviewed; “scope of conditions…and other factors deemed to be in the best interest of Clare County” are required.  The procedure language does not relay the cost as being the main predictor of who receives the bid award, although local providers within the county borders is alluded to as being preferred.

Once the bids are reviewed, the contract is sent to the Board of Commissioners for approval.

Reasons for the rejection of the Just Cleaning bid may have been made due to the low number of man hours included in the bid.

The county requires at least one day employee to provide janitorial services during normal business hours, as well as the cleaning of offices and premises after close of the business day.  Just Cleaning’s bid was for under 50 hours weekly, whereas both Schuh’s Cleaning and AWOL provided for roughly 90 man hours of cleaning services.

In municipal matters, bids are often rejected due to specification differences.  Additionally, if a walk through or interview process is conducted, the committee members responsible can use their discretion to rank bids according to policy, which appears may have been the case here.  Still, saving taxpayers’ money is at the heart of Schuh’s contest of the bid award.

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