SPSA plan challenged

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, March 19, 2016


The company that runs a Portsmouth incineration plant that gets rid of most of the region’s trash has filed a dispute against the regional trash authority’s decision to award a contract for trash disposal to another company.

In the formal protest, Wheelabrator says the Southeastern Public Service Authority added new criteria that were not in the request for proposals that appeared designed to favor RePower.

SPSA’s board voted March 4 to issue a notice of intent to award a contract to RePower to dispose of the region’s trash beginning in 2018. RePower intends to convert the region’s trash to plastic “energy pellets” at a Chesapeake facility, which does not yet exist. The energy pellets then would be sold to utility customers as an alternative to coal as a fuel supply.

“We don’t feel like we got a fair shake, and we’re asking the authority, now that we’ve raised these issues, to take a second look at its process,” said Joel Rubin of Rubin Communications, which has Wheelabrator as a client.

Rubin said SPSA added new criteria during the evaluation process that were not mentioned in the request for proposals.

For example, it introduced “system wide cost,” a term not mentioned in the request for proposals, rather than focusing on experience and methodology, Rubin said.

Rubin also said RePower did not post a $2 million bond as required in the request for proposals.

The protest document states that the bid bond was required as a surety, but RePower provided a “bid guarantee” from Barnhill Construction with a $100,000 cashier’s check.

The Virginia Public Procurement Act allows a certified check as an alternative form of security, but it must be for the full amount required, according to the protest.

Rubin also questioned that RePower was given 25 points for experience in a scoring rubric, while Wheelabrator got 30.

“RePower South has no experience in operating these facilities, and they gave us 30 points for experience, not 50, and they get 25 points for experience,” Rubin said.

“They did not give enough deference to experience and methodology. No one can look at those numbers and say this really looks fair.”

Among the protest’s other contentions is that SPSA penalized Wheelabrator for “ash disposal requirements” at the landfill, even though Wheelabrator has made other arrangements for disposing of its ash at the demand of SPSA.

The authority also made no provision for the possibility of RePower’s failure, other than to rely on the regional landfill in Suffolk, with which the authority has no host agreement, Rubin stated.

SPSA Executive Director Rowland Taylor wrote in an email the authority’s legal team is reviewing the information presented and will have a response within the 10-day period required. “

Until then, we have no comment,” he added in the email.

He declined to answer further questions.

The protest requests that no further action be taken to award the contract to RePower while the protest is pending.