The City Commission's meeting went longer than usual on Tuesday because of a hearing on a contractor's protest of the handling of bids on the solar panel installation for city hall and community center. However, at the start of the hearing the repre- sentative for Alternate Energy Solutions (AES), located in the Orlando area, said he didn’t want the job but only wanted to prove a point that the process was flawed.
Alternate Energy Solutions was the low bidder on a project that would add additional panels to the community center and the city hall building. Four companies expressed an interest in the project, ultimately, only two submitted bids — AES and Delta Coast Energy Solutions of Cedar Key.
During the review of the bids, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Greg Lang took into consideration where the panels were manufactured, because one of the requirements of the grant funding the project is that they be made in America. The low bidder’s panels are made in America by Evergreen Solar but Evergreen has recently opened a plant in China that will take over manufacturing all their panels. Information was also presented regarding Evergreen's financial situation.
When the initial bids came in substantially under budget, the CRA office asked the Governor’s Energy Office on how to go about expanding the size of the project. Afterwards, the CRA office requested additional information — revised bids — from both companies but with the stipulation that they exclude the use of Evergreen panels. In the second round of bidding, Delta Coast was the low bidder and AES filed filed a protest, including an allegation that the project was not properly advertised. During the hearing the hearing, proofs of publications were submitted for print and through the online bid service DemandStar.
Vice-Mayor Sue Colson noted that the packet that was given to prospective bidders was very complete, and the thought of Evergreen not being in business in 25years to ful- fill warranty work was disturbing.
Commissioner Heath Davis noted the protest was only filed after the company did not win the second bid — that they did not take issue with the process during the first round.
Commissioners Scott Dennison, Gene Hodges and Mayor Pat O’Neal concurred and a finding was made in favor of the city and awarding the contract to Delta Coast Energy.
In other matters:
• Davis was appointed as liaison to the Chamber of Commerce
• The merits of the sign ordinance were debated and no decision was made, however, a workshop will be scheduled to discuss it further.
• Dennison updated the commission on cell tower negotiations, stating that American Tower and an unnamed carrier may be unable to make a formal application until after the current lease option expires. He said both the City and water board may need to extend the option.
• The Arts Center asked that the $1,500 that will be saved on the Anchor Hole Boat Ramp project be given to them to help fund the Fine Arts Festival in the spring. No decision was made and the matter may be revisited after the project is closed out.
• The Public Works Department will look into building a city-owned portable toilet for the marina parking lot area rather than continuing with the rented facilities because the vendor has not been maintaining them as required by the lease. The cost of the city unit would be roughly the same as the rented facility.
• Fire assessment fees and the need to look into the matter further was debated, with no action being taken.