PALMETTO -- Palmetto officials Monday approved a six-month extension of the city contract with Waste Management to resolve protests filed in the bid process to secure the city's estimated $1.75 million annual solid waste contract.
It is the second extension granted by the city, which authorized a 10-month extension in March in order to allow time for a thorough bid process.
The city had an option to extend its existing contract another five years, but City Hall chambers filled with Waste Management competitors prior to the first extension, which prompted city officials to bid out its garbage services.
The request for proposals eliminated two of four bidders, leaving Waste Management and Progressive Waste Solutions of Florida vying for the contract.
After an evaluation process, Waste Management finished with 4.32 rating out of a possible five. Progressive finished with a 4.31 in what Public Works Director Allen Tusing called a "very competitive process."
After the evaluations, city officials said they received protests from both haulers, which delayed the awarding the contract to the point where city attorney Mark Barnebey said it could take the entire six months of the latest extension to resolve.
Waste Management objected to Progressive Waste Solutions getting extra points during the evaluation for being a local company. The company's attorney, Brennan Donnelly, claimed its competition is not local because it is headquartered in Canada, but the company does own the land its transfer station is on within city limits.
City Clerk Jim Freeman pointed out what he termed a flawed Waste Management argument in the city's official response to the protests dated Jan. 2.
"The city is within its rights to include language and award points to the appropriate vendor as described in the RFP," wrote Freeman, who also said the protest was filed late.
According to the RFP, a competitor has six calender days to object to any portion of the RFP once the evaluation process began Dec. 2. The city received the protest Dec. 12.
Freeman said technically Waste Management should have filed its objection six days from when the RFP was published in June.
Waste Management also objected to the evaluation committee requesting presentations, but Freeman said the committee showed "additional due diligence and acknowledgment ... to obtain as much as information as possible to make a decision that is in the best interest of the city."
Progressive, too, filed protests claiming scores on costs were too similar with Waste Management's proposal and called the "forms" portion of the evaluation "arbitrary and capricious."
Freeman disagreed with those protests as well, but agreed to reconvene the evaluation committee to confirm the scoring.
Both companies have 10 days to appeal the city's official response to the mayor. If the mayor upholds the city's position, the appeal process goes to the Palmetto City Commission for a final decision.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.