Third time's a charm
For the second time, North Catasauqua Borough Council members have voted to toss out bids for a five-year garbage contract and re-advertise for new bids.
Council President Joe Keglovits had his work cut out for him maintaining order while lawyers for two refuse haulers presented opposing arguments at the Feb. 27 meeting. The lawyers each hoped to secure the contract as bid two weeks ago.
Borough Solicitor William McCarthy earned his paycheck as well, representing the interests of the borough in the face of spirited opposition to his point of view from J.P. Mascaro & Sons attorney Al DeGennaro.
A low bid awarded to Advance Disposal Services/McAuliffe Hauling in December was challenged by DeGennaro because it lacked a required authorized signature. Instead of disqualifying McAuliffe and accepting the next lowest bid from Mascaro, the council voted to reject all bids and re-advertise for a new round of bidding.
When that second round of bids came in, McAuliffe was the lowest bidder and was awarded the contract by council. But again, the bid was challenged by the Mascaro attorney, who noted that the McAuliffe bid package lacked a required antitrust affidavit.
DeGennaro argued at the Feb. 14 council meeting that the missing affidavit shows McAuliffe was negligent and the bid could be rejected because the company had not been a responsible bidder.
"The law is that the bid should go to the lowest responsible bidder," he said. "This is the second time there's something wrong with [McAuliffe's] bid."
While McCarthy instructed council at that meeting that both bidders were in compliance with regulations because the borough had neglected to include a copy of the affidavit in the bid package, council voted to accept the Mascaro bid.
Following that meeting, the borough received a letter from McAuliffe, and called a Feb. 20 executive session of council to discuss it.
Now, at last Tuesday's meeting, Michael Gaul, attorney for McAuliffe, went on the attack because council had rejected the lowest bid at the previous meeting.
"We think you made a legal error in what you're doing," he said.
"We did not do anything to disqualify ourselves from being awarded the contract," he said, pointing out the missing affidavit form was the borough's error, and not McAuliffe's. "We are the low bidder and the contract's not been awarded to us."
Keglovits attempted to share the blame for the missing document with the applicants.
"In Section 1.1 of the bid package, it states each bidder must familiarize themselves with the contents of the package," he said. "You should have questioned [the missing form]."
When given the floor, DeGennaro made a number of points in rebuttal. Among them was a statement that his company, upon receiving a 7-0 vote in favor of the contract at the last meeting, had already acted on it, going to some expense to prepare to provide service to the borough beginning in April.
He said Mascaro had prepared and sent a contract to the borough, had paid the premium for a performance bond and had designed fliers to be distributed to borough residents.
He characterized the opposing bidder as "a sore loser who didn't put the affidavit in the bid packet." By their vote, he said, council members had indicated that they found a defect in the McAuliffe bid and they chose not to waive the defect, awarding the bid to Mascaro instead.
Council members then heard the advice from their solicitor, who began by saying there was no defect in McAuliffe's bid package. Because of the missing form, both bidders could be considered to be in compliance.
He recommended that council rescind the vote to award the contract to Mascaro, reject both bids and re-advertise for another round of bids.
He said he was not favoring or opposing either bidder, but rather simply representing what he deemed to be in the best interests of the borough.
On a motion to rescind the vote awarding the contract to Mascaro, council members Michelle Hazzard, Cherie Gebhardt, William McGinley and Mike Seng voted in favor and Shawn McGinley and Keglovits were opposed; Councilman John Yanek was absent.
On the motion to reject all bids and rebid the contract, the vote was 5-1, with Keglovits opposed.
J.P. Mascaro & Sons has the current contract to collect garbage in the borough. It expires at the end of March.