The Maplewood Township Committee voted last night to accept Bella Cleaning and Carting of Ridgewood, NJ as its 2015 recycling pickup and hauling contractor.
Starting January 5, Bella will begin providing weekly recycling pickup to the entire Township. This is an increase from the every-other-Monday pickup provided by the previous contractor Basso.
The decision to accept Bella’s bid was made after another bidder, Gaeta Recycling, challenged the award of the contract to Bella — the lowest bidder at $198,240. Gaeta was the next lowest bidder at $243,400.
An attorney for Gaeta said that not only did Bella fail on a technical issue — not acknowledging an addendum to the original RFP — but that the winning bidder had insufficient equipment and inexperience to meet the threshold of a “responsible bidder.” Bella is a relatively new and small enterprise with many private contracts but only one public contract (prior to Maplewood) — Jersey City.
Township Administrator Joseph Manning, Assist. Admin. Cesar Correa, Counsel Roger Desiderio and Public Works Director Calvin Bell all recommended against Bella citing lack of sufficient equipment and experience.
After extensive back and forth between the attorneys from Gaeta and Bella, as well as testimony from and cross-examination of Bella president Ben Raabe, clarifications from Desiderio, and debate amongst Township Committee members, the Committee voted 3-2 to accept Bella. Mayor Vic DeLuca voted yes, as did Marlon K. Brownlee and Deputy Mayor Kathy Leventhal. Jerry Ryan and India Larrier voted no.
Although Desiderio said that a close reading of the applicable statute showed that Bella was at fault by not acknowledging the addendum, DeLuca said, “I don’t think it’s all that cut and dry.” Earlier in the discussion the mayor apologized to both contractors for mistakes the Township had made. “We screwed up,” said the mayor, who acknowledged that, not only was the date wrong on the original RFP (which stated bids were due Monday, November 25, instead of Tuesday, November 25), but that, in issuing the addendum, “I think we did not do what was required.” DeLuca also noted that Raabe visited Town Hall on Nov. 24 and was told there was no addendum.
As to equipment and experience, DeLuca said, “Nothing in the bid says [anything about] number of trucks.” DeLuca said he felt that Raabe had proved that he could do the job by January 5. During testimony, Raabe had explained that he had trucks on order as well as existing equipment and had already received route maps and other information from Basso. “If he doesn’t do the job, we fire him,” said DeLuca.
“I’m a little concerned about the equipment issue,” said Ryan, who contended that, even though Raabe was not required to list his equipment, he had opened the door to questioning by doing so.
Larrier said that, like Ryan, she was not concerned about the addendum, but said, “It’s not clear what equipment is in place. That is my concern.”
After the vote, Raabe thanked the Committee, promising to bring personal attention to the work. Ryan said he certainly hoped that Raabe would do great work and if so, Ryan would be happy to admit that he was wrong.