Supervisors Balk at Bidding Process for Parking Lot Contract

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Orange County supervisors raised pointed questions this week about the county’s contracting process on a new, multimillion-dollar deal with Parking Concepts to collect parking fees at county beaches and parks.

Parking Concepts or PCI holds the current contract. The overriding concern, voiced by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, was why the only other bidder, LAZ Parking, was rated lower on price even though it proposed giving the county a bigger cut of the revenue than PCI did.

“That’s not intuitive. Why would you get a lower score on the factor of cost when you came in lower?” asked Spitzer.

Up for approval was a new contract with PCI to collect parking fees at county beaches and most parks, which in 2012 brought the company $1.4 million out of $3.5 million in total fee revenue.

The contract would run through the end of 2014, with extensions likely for another four years. It covers fee collection at Capistrano, Aliso and Salt Creek beaches and dozens of county parks.

Supervisors ultimately voted 4-1, with Chairman Shawn Nelson opposing, to extend the current contract, set to expire next week, until the end of September. The board also directed Orange County Parks staff to conduct new interviews with the two bidders.

The item is scheduled to return to the board on Sept. 17.

Beyond the cost concerns, supervisors questioned a lack of interviews with the bidders.

“There needs to be a rationale” for the lack of interviews, said Spitzer. “The issue for me is just the procedure and the process.”

Interim Parks Director Rich Adler said his staff didn’t do interviews because it needed to send a new contract to the board before the current one expires.

Supervisor John Moorlach asked why only one company decided to bid against the incumbent. He doesn’t “want to create a reputation that it’s not worth it to bid here in Orange County,” he said.

Moorlach said LAZ’s bid was “great” and wondered how it could be so low. “Are they bidding this low to just get in the door?” he asked. “That’s where I’m having some reluctance.”

Spitzer again questioned why details weren’t included in the staff report about the bids.

“They’re recommending a more expensive solution. I would hope that if you ask me to pay more money for something, you’d tell me why,” said Spitzer.

PCI had proposed adding mobile technology, though the staff report didn’t explain what it was or why it was needed.

One of PCI’s vice presidents is Lyle Overby, a longtime lobbyist who has been an effective fundraiser for supervisors. He spoke to the board Tuesday on behalf of his firm.

Overby said his company was the dominant provider in the county because of its “service, value and a flawless record,” including clean audits by county Internal Auditor Peter Hughes.

“I believe any procurement can be picked apart retroactively,” added Overby, who is also a Voice of OC Community Editorial Board member.

As for his company’s higher cost, Overby indicated that LAZ’s lower labor costs would sacrifice value, safety and service.

Spitzer also saw a flaw in the way contract evaluation panels are set up, saying that with only three evaluators on contracts for more than $1 million, just one person “can really skew an outcome.”

He suggested that on future contract procurements, the number of reviewers be increased to five.

PCI also handles parking for county Public Works, Dana Point Harbor and John Wayne Airport.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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