Carlsbad resubmits request for outsourcing parks maintenance

Carlsbad resubmits request for outsourcing parks maintenance
Carlsbad City Employees’ Association representative Amy Jordan implores that City Council allow city employees to continue providing park maintenance services at the Sept. 10 meeting. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — Thanks to a Sept. 10 decision by City Council, the city will be reissuing its request for proposal (RFP) to outsource parks maintenance after its first request returned inadequate bids. 

In July 2012 the city received a report from a consultant that found that “significant savings may be achieved by outsourcing parks maintenance services,” according to city documents.

Consequently, the Parks and Recreation Department sent out an RFP on July 17, 2013 for contractors to bid on five categories of maintaining the city’s parks, which include 300-plus park acres, more than 46 miles of trails and 20,000 trees, according to the department’s director Chris Hazeltine.

The city had received four bids by the end of the RFP’s 35-day period. Only two of the bids met the request’s full requirements, and collectively the bids did not take over all five categories of parks maintenance.

Because of the lack of bids, city staff was, “unable to determine if any substantial savings could be realized by outsourcing the parks maintenance,” said Hazeltine.

He stated that staff had reason to believe that at least two other contractors were interested in entering bids, but were unable to do so within the RFP’s time frame.

As such, staff recommended that City Council reject all of the original bids to allow staff to update the RFP and reissue it with a longer time frame to attract more bids.

Representatives of the CCEA (Carlsbad City Employees’ Association) spoke at the meeting to urge City Council to reject the contractors’ bids and allow city employees to continue to conduct park maintenance.

“For more than a year, these employees have had hanging over their heads that they might lose their jobs,” said CCEA representative Amy Jordan.

“Now that we don’t have that promised $4 million savings or a company who would even bid on all lines of services, I think you have no choice but to reject those bids.”

Hazeltine said that staff consulted CCEA representatives about the original RFP and later about their plans to resubmit it.

“The CCEA representatives that we’re dealing with certainly understand the (staff’s) point of view. I won’t go as far to say that they said, ‘That’s a great idea. You should (reissue the RFP),’” he said.

Councilmember Keith Blackburn questioned staff’s recommendation, pointing out that contractors who originally submitted bids late or not at all will have an advantage over those who abided by the original deadlines.

“Now we’re going to let this other contractor see what his competitors’ bids were…Explain to me how that doesn’t crush our (the city’s) credibility with any of the people who want to submit bids to us?” Blackburn said.

Yet Mayor Matt Hall and Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard supported reissuing the RFP.

Hall pointed out that the city rejects bids and reissues RFP’s regularly, about once per year.

Packard added that he did not think that doing so would damage the city’s credibility.

“I trust that contractors will still be interested in submitting bids,” he said.

Blackburn conceded that the reissuing the RFP was necessary despite his concerns, and City Council voted unanimously to allow staff to re-do the RFP.

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