By Margie Plunkett
Universal Beach Services Corp. nearly saw 30 years of cleaning the sands of Delray Beach come to an end in the undertow of a low bidder. Commissioners, however, finally awarded Universal the contract after it protested that the beach couldn’t possibly be cleaned for that low price.
Universal of Delray Beach was the middle of three bidders for the beach cleaning contract, offering to do the job for $94,896 annually. Beach Raker was the low bidder, with a $57,000 annual offer and the Beach Groomer came in high at $450,000 a year.
The city now pays Universal $79,000 for three days of cleanup each week, but the new bid expanded that time to five days each week.
Universal Vice President JoAnn Peart, who together with her son, Clayton, owns the company founded by her late husband, John Frederick Peart, brought a protest in November claiming the city gave the low bidder an unfair competitive advantage.
“First, the winning bid included points for extra services which were not part of the bid requirement or request,” according to Peart’s protest.
“Secondly, the city has failed to consider that the alleged winning bidder cannot possibly provide the services required at that bid amount,” Peart wrote in the protest letter.
The Parks and Recreation Department recommended the Beach Raker bid because it was low, but also in part because the Pompano Beach company planned to use a different method of cleaning that would pick up trash as small as cigarette butts and bottle caps, according to a memo from the Ocean Rescue and Parks and Recreation directors.
“The problem with using such equipment is that it also removes all sea shells and other naturally occurring small items from the sand,” the memo said. A few years ago, the Parks staff saw the equipment demonstrated and decided against it.
The memo concludes the city’s action on the low bid put Universal at an unfair disadvantage “because they were not given the opportunity of submitting a bid using this equipment,” staff said, noting Universal said it would clean the beach using the same equipment if the city wanted it to.
The staff did a price comparison with other cities that Beach Raker served, observing that Delray Beach seemed to require more of its contractor and that Beach Raker’s bid was about 40 percent less than it charged its other cities.
“We have had bad experience in the past with contractors who underbid a contract and either gave poor quality service or ultimately walked away from the contract altogether,” the memo said.