Faulty county bid procedures delay fuel oil contract
The Dukes County manager retraced his steps this week after he failed to follow proper legal procedures when he personally requested bids last month from one Island and three Falmouth companies to provide fuel oil to Vineyard towns and schools through a county contract.
Only the R.M. Packer Company of Tisbury responded.
According to the state office of the Inspector General, all requests for bids must appear as a legal advertisement. The faulty procedure was brought to light when a representative of a fuel oil company interested in submitting a bid said he did not see a legal ad.
This week, Dukes County manager E. Winn Davis said a legal ad is scheduled to appear in tomorrow's Vineyard Gazette.
Mr. Davis said he did not think a delay of more than a month would affect the volume price taxpayers pay for fuel oil, because the spot price fluctuates throughout the year.
Last week, Mr. Davis provided conflicting versions of what had actually occurred. Mr. Davis told The Times that he blamed the Gazette for failing to publish the legal ad he had sent them. Mr. Davis said his "records" showed the county sent the ad but that the Gazette said it had no record of receiving it, The Times reported last Thursday.
According to a short report in the Friday, September 16 issue of the Gazette, Joe Pitt, Gazette business manager, said the newspaper never received a copy of the bid request, and Mr. Davis admitted he could find no record in his own files of what he thought he had ordered.
Mr. Davis failed to publish an ad but did contact four oil companies last month requesting bids. In addition to Packer, Mr. Davis, a Falmouth resident, called or faxed bid requests to Falmouth Coal, Loud Fuel and PS Ideal Fuel.
Doug Seward at R.M. Packer Company said that Mr. Davis hand delivered a request for bids to the Packer Company offices on August 22. Mr. Seward said that a week and a half later, on August 31, he took his company's bid proposal to the county offices at the airport. He said Mr. Davis was not in the office at that time.
Mr. Seward said that about two weeks passed, and he did not hear from the county. "I didn't know what was going on for quite a while," he said. "We didn't hear anything."
Mr. Seward said he called the county office on or about September 13, "to find out what was going on up there." Again, Mr. Davis was not in the office. However, Mr. Seward said that Deborah Potter, the county manager's executive assistant, told him that there had been a problem with the bid process, and that it had to be re-bid.
On Tuesday, Mr. Seward said that he had not yet received a second request for bids from the county.
Asked whether the delay in the bid process would change the bid price, Mr. Seward said that he could not comment. Ralph Packer, owner of R.M. Packer Company, was equally tight-lipped.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to comment at this time," said Mr. Packer.
According to the owner of Falmouth Coal, Mr. Davis is a customer of the company and called to see if the company would be interested. Yesterday, Chris LeBoeuf, Falmouth Coal general manager, said he did not respond to the initial bid request because he thought he had missed the September 1 deadline. "It was my mistake we didn't get the bid in when it was due which was unfortunate because we were interested in placing a bid," said Mr. LeBoeuf, who added that he was happy he would get another chance.
Cabral Tasha, manager for Loud Fuel, said he needs to stay local and has no interest in the county request. "I have no idea why it was sent and was very surprised to see it in my bin," he said. "Faxing it, that's weird."
Representatives of PS Ideal could not be reached for comment.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, Mr. Davis was unable to say specifically whether he had faxed or mailed the bid requests to the companies and on what dates.
Asked why he hand-delivered the bid request to Packer, Mr. Davis said, "Because it was getting short on time and I wanted to make sure he had as much time as possible. I found that mailing on the Island is not always a safe way of getting through."
Mr. Davis disputed a report in last week's Times in which he placed the blame for the ad not appearing with the Gazette. "I think what I said was, I thought I placed the ad," he said.
Asked why if he thought he had placed a legal ad he did not then check to see if it appeared, Mr. Davis said, "Usually, I would, but I didn't this time."
Mr. Davis said he is revising the dates in the bid and planned to send the requests out yesterday or today with a deadline of 12 pm, Oct. 7.
Asked which company representative called to point out the irregularity in the request for bid procedure, Mr. Davis said, "I don't feel I have to tell you that."