J.R. Vinagro wins Portsmouth transfer station contract

Annual sticker fee could be well over $300 next year

By Jim McGaw
Posted 10/24/17

PORTSMOUTH — The current operator of the town’s transfer station, J.R. Vinagro, was retained in a split vote by the Town Council Monday night.

The 4-3 decision was made two weeks …

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J.R. Vinagro wins Portsmouth transfer station contract

Annual sticker fee could be well over $300 next year

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The current operator of the town’s transfer station, J.R. Vinagro, was retained in a split vote by the Town Council Monday night.

The 4-3 decision was made two weeks after a contentious public hearing during which the council decided to stick with the transfer station on Hedly Street rather than switch to curbside pickup.

Vinagro submitted the lower of two “responsive” total bid packages — $1.11 million versus Waste Management’s bid of $1.23 million. 

Although the council isn’t expected to set a sticker fee until next month or in December, it could end up being more than double the current $160 annual cost, depending on how many stickers are sold. 

Under Vinagro’s proposal, the estimated sticker fee would be about $370 if 3,000 stickers were sold, $317 based on 3,500 stickers sold and $278 if 4,000 stickers were sold.

Although council member Paul Kesson made the motion Oct. 10 to retain the transfer station, he was among the three members in the minority on Monday.

“I think this agenda item is out of order and the town administrator has enough direction from the last motion to award this contract,” said Mr. Kesson, referring to his Oct. 10 motion stating that the transfer station contract should be awarded to the “lowest bidder.” He didn’t name a specific contractor, nor did his motion say anything about bringing the matter back for a council vote on Monday, Mr. Kesson said.

Council President Keith Hamilton, however, said he was more comfortable with the council voting to award the contract to the lowest bidder as presented by Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. and Finance Director John Menke. 

Council member J. Mark Ryan made such a motion and he was supported by Mr. Hamilton and council members Linda Ujifusa and Kevin Aguiar. Voting against were Mr. Kesson and council members Elizabeth Pedro and David Gleason.

‘Unresponsive’ bid tossed

The latter two council members argued to have the council reconsider a third bidder, Lawrence Waste Services, whose proposal was earlier disqualified by the management team.

Although Lawrence appeared to have submitted the lowest of the three bids — translating to an estimated sticker price as low as $250, according to Mr. Kesson — the company’s bid was deemed “non-responsive” to the request for proposals (RFP) because it was based on a per-haul charge and not a per-ton charge as requested by the town.

Mr. Gleason said Lawrence, which operates the Prudence Island transfer station, has taken over transfer stations in other municipalities and has won praise for its operations and cost savings. The company, he said, simply “asked for payment in a different format.” 

He said the town should have reached out to Lawrence after receiving its bid. “You always have something in the bid which needs further clarification,” he said. “We should have taken a different approach.”

Ms. Pedro agreed, saying Lawrence was committed to running the transfer station more efficiently and at a better price.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Ms. Pedro said. “I don’t believe this is in the best interests of Portsmouth. Throwing out this bid on a technicality is a travesty.”

Mr. Rainer, however, said the RFP was clear and that reaching out to one bidder could have put the town in legal and financial jeopardy.

“The moment we open those bids, the bids were closed. You can’t go back and submit another bid. We have to judge the proposals on the merits of what they submitted,” Mr. Rainer said. “Had we not done that, the other bidders would be in a position to protest that bid. (Lawrence) altered the bid form and put in an asterisk.”

Mr. Aguiar also supported throwing out the Lawrence bid. 

“He took a risk by putting an asterisk on his bid to differentiate himself from the other bidders,” he said. “Once the bids are in, you can’t have side discussions for clarification. It’s the written number that governs. Unfortunately, he sealed his fate.”

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