The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council last week deferred approval of a road rock purchase policy that would have bypassed a competitive bid process.
The Town of Loxahatchee Groves and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District have historically purchased rock from D.S. Eakins Construction and Palm Beach Aggregates nearby at a good rate, but at the March 19 meeting, council members opted to review the process, since the town plans to spend several hundred thousand dollars for rock in the near future.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the resolution was to authorize the purchase of base rock from the two vendors.
“The recommendation was to move forward with the ability to purchase base rock on an as-needed basis from these two entities,” Cirullo said. “It was brought forward this evening as an exception to your procurement code because this was not advertised and formally submitted.”
Cirullo said the resolution would need a four-vote supermajority since it did not follow the procurement code, to allow the town to continue to purchase rock.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said Palm Beach Aggregates is generally where base rock comes from locally.
“This seems like a no-brainer?” Maniglia asked.
“It beats the traffic going east, and it’s an insurance issue,” Town Engineer Larry Peters said. “It takes longer, and there’s more opportunity for accidents.”
Peters added that the vendors have the exact locations for precise pricing on delivery. Other factors include the possibility of town staff being delayed by having to wait for delivery.
“We wanted a price for delivery, and if we were to go get it ourselves — because we’ve done that before — it’s there before you, the prices are specific,” he said. “We just go down to Palm Beach Aggregates and get what we need. It’s more logical to go to the west.”
Vice Mayor Pro-Temp Robert Shorr was skeptical of bypassing the procurement procedure.
“There’s a reason this requires a four-fifths vote because you’re totally skirting the normal process,” Shorr said, adding that skirting the process potentially shuts out local firms. “I know there’s trucking companies all over this town. I’m disappointed there wasn’t more effort to get more prices.”
Shorr favored a more open bidding process.
“As a government entity, we need to give people the opportunity to bid on these, and we need to be able to select the best price,” he said. “I don’t think the process to go out and get enough bids is there, and I hate to say this, because we need rock. I don’t want to slow down this process.”
Councilwoman Laura Danowski asked if it would be possible to get a one-year fixed price from Palm Beach Aggregates on the price of rock the town needs and seek bids for delivery. Peters said that made sense.
Maniglia said she has had problems in the past with the town’s bidding process.
“A lot of contractors were not seeing the RFPs [requests for proposals], or didn’t know we had projects,” she explained to new Town Manager Jamie Titcomb. “Local guys didn’t know we had projects. Do you feel we could straighten that out quick enough?”
“Generally, I think you’ll see lots of improvements in lots of areas in the near future,” Titcomb replied.
Maniglia asked if postponing a decision would delay any important projects, and Peters said after a certain amount, the vendor would not be paid.
“They’ve been contacted, and they’ve been told that this is a council item,” he said. “In order to pay the bills, you’re going to have to approve something. He’s still allowing me to pick up the rock. It’s just that the bill is not being paid.”
Shorr said paying the current bill was under a separate agenda item, which had been pulled in order to obtain more backup.
“Once that backup information comes, it’s going to come back on the agenda for us to pay this $30,000 bill,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do about that at this meeting, but this is a price agreement based on a large quantity, and there’s no time line. How long is this price good for? It just doesn’t follow the government process of an RFP.”
Mayor Pro-Temp Dave DeMarois said the price agreement, as well as paying off the outstanding $30,000 debt, would be settled at the council’s next meeting on April 2.
Titcomb said the $30,000 debt had been pulled from the agenda because the price exceeded the cap that could be approved by the manager under the town’s purchasing process, thereby requiring council approval, and the item under discussion was to set policy on future rock purchases. He suggested several alternative processes that could be followed, such as a rotation process from several vendors.
“Maybe there’s a trucking rotational aspect to this in terms of who delivers it to you,” Titcomb suggested. “That may be an operational efficiency, but Larry is the expert in this, and I think the documentation is a little light for your purchasing codes. I don’t want to stop any project. I know how critical roads and rock are to this town.”
During public comment, former Councilman Ron Jarriel said the LGWCD had historically purchased rock from Palm Beach Aggregates, and he had been advised by local hauling contractors that having the district haul the material was the most economical scenario.
Former LGWCD Supervisor John Ryan said the price of rock fluctuates almost daily, and he was not sure if the town could lock in a long-term price.
“It might be good to try it,” Ryan said, adding that municipalities, including Wellington, publish their invoices. “You could check the prices of neighboring communities.”
Shorr made a motion not to approve the resolution bypassing the procurement code and look at alternative pricing or RFPs, which carried 5-0.