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Investigation clears company of bid-shopping

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza concluded his investigation into the allegations that Parkeon, a city contractor, had engaged in bid shopping on June 16, and determined that the contractor had in fact followed protocol.


The issue involved the city of Austin’s contract with Parkeon, a multinational company tasked with refitting the city’s parking meters. During a June 9 MBE/WBE Small Business Council Subcommittee meeting, Ben Warmate, President of Unism Development, a local contractor, accused the company of  bid shopping after bidding on Parkeon’s subcontract for removal of 2800-3000 single space meters and installation of 750 new multi-space meters. Warmate told the subcommittee that Parkeon representatives had met with him and told him the job was essentially his to lose. Warmate also said that Parkeon had suggested a price based upon previous jobs. Warmate claimed that after he submitted his price, a third round of RFPs went out and he was not selected.


Garza’s report says Parkeon did nothing wrong. Steve Snyder, the Austin project manager for Parkeon, told Garza that Parkeon reps had met with Unism and two other firms. Additionally, the investigative write up says that Warmate’s first two proposals “were considered ‘incomplete’ because a price for either removal or installation was not included, but instead simply stated, ‘negotiable.’”


In the second round of bidding, three firms submitted bids: DC Services, Prism Development, and Unism Development. Garza’s report included a breakdown of price. DC Services and Prism quoted Parkeon $25 less per meter than Unism for installation and $40-45 less for removal of each meter. DC Services had past experience with “identical work” for the city of Houston, and won the contract.


Also at issue was the speed with which DC Services was awarded MBE certification. The Houston-based company had received its Austin certification in one business day. Garza’s report points out that in the past two years, 10 percent of all applying firms received certification in one day. Garza’s report also said that DC Services was previously certified as a DBE in Houston, and Austin’s MBE/WBE was modeled after Houston’s DBE program, which enabled DC Services to swiftly and accurately complete the process. Garza’s report says that, “The most significant factors which impact the time required for certification approval are the submittal of all documentation completed fully and accurately, as well as the ability to verify all necessary qualifications.” 


Garza concludes his report saying, “I believe the subcontract award was appropriately handled.”

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