Encinitas’ recent award of an major engineering services contract to a Rancho Bernardo-based firm is being disputed by the firm with which the city has done business with for 24 years.
The City Council unanimously awarded a three-year contract for engineering inspection services related to private development projects to Infrastructure Engineering Corporation.
That contract was held by Geopacifica, Inc., which had contracted with the city for a variety of services since 1994. Geopacifica submitted the lowest bid out of four contractors for the inspection services contract, but city staff recommended IEC.
Carolyn Batiste, Geopacifica’s president, said this week that she was disappointed by the city’s decision and investigating whether the firm has any legal redress.
“If we weren’t providing a good service, then I agree, we shouldn’t be there,” she said. “But all I ask for is a fair playing field, and are asking the city to look into that.”
Encinitas, like many other cities, relies on firms like IEC and Geopacifica for services such as inspection, planning and engineering. The employees work at the city but oversight and compensation are done by the contracting firm.
Geopacifica’s bid included the cost of three inspectors and one part-time manager at a cost of $632,760 a year. IEC’s contract, which covered the cost of two inspectors, one supervisor inspector and a part-time manager, would cost about $900,000 the first year, and escalate to $917,000 and $936,000 in years two and three, or $2.75 million over the three years.
The other two firms, KOA Corp. and EsGill, LLC, bid $2.5 million and $2.27 million, respectively.
Batiste lashed out at the City Council at the June 20 meeting, urging them to veto staff’s recommendation.
She contended that not only was Geopacifica the lowest bidder, a cursory review of IEC’s website did not reveal the same level of experience with private development inspections as Geopacifica.
“Geopacifica contends that we have met the qualifications for the award of the bid, and moreover we are the lowest bidder,” Batiste said. “We believe that if you take action tonight to award this contract to other than the lowest bidder, you do not fulfill your fiduciary duty that you have sworn under oath to undertake on behalf of this community.
“It does not serve the short-term or long-term goals of the city to expend 60 percent more for these services while trying to balance (retirement) obligations and the many numerous and other mandatory overhead burdens that create the bulk of any municipal budget,” Batiste continued. “How will you justify the award to a lesser qualified bidder to your community at a substantially higher cost?”
City Development Services Director Brenda Wisneski told the Council that the city, under state law, is not required to accept the lowest bid for professional services, such as engineering and public works contracts.
Wisneski said IEC was selected based on recommendations from other communities where they had worked, including La Mesa and Carlsbad.
“We felt they might provide a higher level of service than what we have experienced with Geopacifica,” Wisneski said.
Batiste called Wisneski’s comments “a slap to our faces.”
“It was painful,” she said. “You can hear me on the tape shout, “that’s just not true.” I was out of line because they were already deliberating at the dais, but that was below the belt.”
Batiste contends that she was unaware of any problems with the working relationship with the city. Her employees, she said, provided an important backstop for the city, which has undergone large turnover in its engineering divisions. In fact, she said, the city recently hired two of her employees.
“If we were so awful, we should have known this way back when,” Batiste said. “The have never given us any written documentation that we weren’t living up to our contractual obligations or our professional obligations.”
Batiste said she has requested the city provide the analysis for its decision, which she said was missing from the staff report.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear and City Councilman Tony Kranz said they weren’t aware of any issues between Geopacifica and the city, but said it was merely a result of the city’s contract process.
“It’s a standard process and her company didn’t prevail,” Blakespear said. “That’s the system.”