Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Major Garbage Incinerator Project Causes Stir in Palm Beach County

A contentious new $600 million garbage incinerator contract was recently awarded to the low bidder by the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority. The project has been the subject of controversy between the three companies that submitted bids as well as with local unions. The objections revolve around a number of issues:

Cost vs. Technical Considerations: The proposals were first rated on technical grounds, with all three scoring relatively close to each other. However, when bids were opened, the lowest-ranking proposal on technical grounds - from Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) - turned out to be the low bid.

Bid Problems: The second lowest bidder, Wheelabrator Technologies, submitted an unsuccessful protest urging the disqualification of B&W for an inadequate performance bond and for changing their team after their Statement of Qualifications was evaluated.

Local Labor: Perhaps the most divisive issue has been use of local workers for the project. Local unions have voiced heated opposition to the winning proposal from B&W, which reserved just 20% of skilled jobs for local workers compared to 40% in the proposal by high bidder Covanta Energy (Wheelabrator also promised around 20%). Unions expressed frustration over past disagreements with B&W subcontractor BE&K and the low number of slots promised for local workers, while B&W stressed that the 20% figure was a guaranteed minimum that they would try to exceed. According to BE&K vice president Lance Hendrix, quoted by WPTV, "We always want to hire as many local workers as possible."

In the end (after a marathon nine-hour public meeting), the Palm Beach County Commissioners awarded the county's largest-ever public works contract to B&W by a 4-3 vote.

More information:

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2011 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

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