In a split vote, elected officials nix multiple bids for truck purchase
PASQUOTANK COUNTY — At Monday’s meeting of the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners, the solid waste director, Mike Etheridge, wanted to purchase a new heavy truck for use in hauling debris from the transfer station.
The Mack Truck, Etheridge said, is consistent with the rest of the fleet. He also stated that the ground clearance was greater with the Mack than is the case with other makes. Therefore, he wanted to ‘sole source’ the purchase, meaning no bids would be taken from other manufacturers.
Commissioner Frankie Meads urged his colleagues to take three bids for the purchase of this truck. The County Manager, Rodney Bunch, stated that sole source purchasing is allowed under limited circumstances by state law and that the county has used this procedure in the past.
Several commissioners used the past practices as justification for proceeding.
In addition to the three-bid issue, Commissioner Meads notified his colleagues on the board that he had secured a bid from another manufacturer for a truck of equal capability – at a savings of $20,000, compared to the Mack Truck.
Meads suggested that all heavy truck manufacturers opt to use one of no more than three different engines, and the same is true of other components. Most utilize the same front and rear axles, as an example — manufactured by an axle company that supplied these for use in almost all makes and models. Lastly, Meads claimed that truck manufacturers build these trucks based upon how the specs are written, so they are all fairly equal.
Despite Meads’ recommendation — and potential savings of $20,000 — the board voted 4 to 3 to allow the sole source purchase.
This is not an isolated instance. Consider the following:
About a year ago, there was an attempt to vote for a sub-contract agreement with Stephenson Sand to manage the landfill. Commissioner Gary White had lost his reelection bid and was due to leave the board very soon, and he is related to the principals of Stephenson Sand.
So this effort to rush the vote was on the agenda but fortunately was stopped at the last minute.
About a year later, the solid waste department was again pushing for a vote to renew the contract of Stephenson Sand. Commissioner Meads asked questions about the landfill and its operations and made a motion to allow the contractor, and others to bid the contract and that the county should prepare a new RFP for all other firms to submit bids, particularly in view of the large amount of money involved, projected to be in excess of $1 million.
Most of the Commissioners asked questions of Commissioner Meads, but the most critical was Commissioner Dixon pertaining to what was being said at the time. Dixon was also critical of James Morris, a county citizen and frequent critic of the landfill operations.
Commissioner Dixon chastised Morris, complaining that public records requests from Morris require an inordinate amount of staff time. However, one document released provided evidence that 400 tons of recyclable cardboard had been given away in a six-month period, plus the costs to transporting this material to Bay Disposal in lower Currituck County — costing the taxpayers a great deal of money.
When this issue came up at the Commissioners meeting at that time, the County Manager remarked that Pasquotank County is selling the cardboard, but no other details were provided. At the finance committee meeting, Commissioner Dixon was critical of the questioning about this matter as if giving away hundreds of dollars in cardboard was no big deal.
At one point in the discussions, Commissioner Perry remarked, repeatedly, that there was another “elephant in the room,” which appeared to suggest that the complaints were either racially motivated or that they were directed particularly toward the current director, an African American, rather than protecting the interests of the taxpayers.
In the end, the Commissioners voted to extend that contract for three more years without accepting bids from any other firms – a decision similar in many respects to Monday’s approval of a sole source purchase for the Mack Truck.
The matter of the landfill, its operations and efficiencies, or lack thereof, continue to be a very contentious matter. This newspaper will continue to follow this story and keep our readers informed.
In a related development, Morris – the citizen activist – later received an email from the county manager specifying that cardboard was sold to Bay Disposal at a rate of $12 per ton. In response, another email request about why we were selling cardboard now yet we gave away 400 tons last year, went unanswered. A simple cost check by phone confirmed that cardboard could bring $45 per ton provided that it was not bailed.
Why is Pasquotank County selling this recyclable material at below market rates? We shall see!!!