Protest Prompts Debate On Bid Process

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A local garbage hauler’s plaintive protest prompted the Payson Town Council to direct town staff to double check its numbers.

Jon Avakian, owner of Roadrunner Rubbish Removal, interrupted the council’s routine approval of a new contract to haul away garbage from town events by complaining Assistant Public Works Director Buzz Walker had added up the numbers wrong, in recommending the council award the three-year contract to a different local firm.

Avakian said he was being rejected for a minor problem filling out the bid, even though he had actually submitted the lowest bid.

“I would ask the council to please look at the figures again,” said Avakian.

Avakian said that his bid was actually $3,500 lower than the bid recommended by the town staff .

Walker noted that Roadrunner didn’t have the smaller size of dumpsters, which meant the town would have to pay for bigger dumpsters than it needed — which accounted for part of the difference in the contracts.

Moreover, Avakian didn’t completely fill out his bid forms, leaving several key boxes unchecked.

“So it was an irregular bid — and normally it’s a judgment call whether you throw that bid out entirely,” said Walker.

“So no matter how I filled out the form it would have been an irregular bid? Even though we are the cheapest — in Mr. Walker’s eyes it doesn’t matter?” said Avakian.

Avakian said he wouldn’t charge more to use the larger containers.

Councilor Mike Vogel said he would like the town staff to run the numbers again, given Avakian’s concerns.

“I’m very much in favor of helping local businesses,” added Councilor Ed Blair.

“These are all local businesses,” said Walker. “But there was a financial discipline in the bid process — and if we let one guy change his bid we have to let the next guy change his, too.”

“Can we get in trouble for going back and changing things after we open the bids?” asked Councilor Michael Hughes.

The town attorney said recalculating the numbers of all the bids posed no problems, but accepting any additional information would require the town to start the bid process over.

“We have a process,” said Mayor Kenny Evans to Avakian. “If your question is ‘were the numbers added correctly?’ that’s appropriate. But our question to staff is: Was the process fair?”

“It was how we’ve always done it,” said Walker.

“I’d just like you to go back and look again and come back and tell us which one is the low bid,” Vogel said.

“You’re saying — ‘check the math,’” said Walker. So Vogel moved to ask Walker to run the numbers again — then award the bid to whoever he deemed the low bidder. The council approved that idea unanimously.

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