When The Government Listens It’s Better Late Than Never

Better late than never

Better Late Than Never But Never Late Is Better

After almost two years of criticizing the Rockland County purchasing department and the leadership of Rockland County BOCES things have finally changed for the better.

When the County awarded the TRIPS maintenance contract about two years ago there was a glaring problem. Everything about the bid was normal except for one line; that line contained the maintenance that would be performed on the new gasoline powered buses the county was ordering and had yet to have in their fleet.

The county wanted to know what the cost savings would be for the new buses. The current fleet were all diesels that required more expensive filters and oil. Much to their surprise the bidder entered a price of $835 for servicing the new buses. That service should not have been much more than the average oil change anyone would get at a quick lube. The price quote for the diesel buses was a much lower $140.

Why the difference?  A higher profit margin is the only reason I could come up with, why else? Normally that high a price would be a reason for losing the contract as the total price of the bid would be too high and this was a low bid wins contract. But the county, wanting to know the price of that service only, put a quantity of ‘one’ instead of the a quantity of nineteen for the entire order of 19 buses. That single $835 entry barely affected the bottom line price put forth by the bidder. 

So what happened nextThe company that bid on the TRIPS contract that included the $835 oil change was awarded the contract. The county stated at the time it did not matter due to the fact the nineteen buses were over a year away from service and that they had no intention of paying for that $835 service on each of the nineteen buses.

But there was another twist to this story. You see other government agencies can “piggyback” off another agency’s contract. That brings Rockland BOCES into the picture. You see BOCES has been using the TRIPS maintenance contract for the servicing of their buses for many years. Most of BOCES small buses ARE gasoline powered. Therefore for approximately the past two years Brega DOT Maintenance has been getting paid $835 for oil changes on all of the BOCES buses. That was school tax dollars paid by county residents, NOT the federal and State taxes that the county uses to service TRIPS buses. Amazingly, BOCES paid many thousands of dollars for $835 oil changes for almost two years, something had to change.

That brings me to the summer of 2015.  The TRIPS contract was ending and had to be renewed.  Much to the surprise of many the county made the bold decision NOT renew the contract with Brega and instead put it out for rebid. The contract had two bidders namely, the holder of the current contract, Brega DOT Maintenance, and Chestnut Ridge Transportation. Chestnut Ridge Transportation was the true low bidder this time around and was recently awarded the TRIPS Maintenance contract.

That $835 oil change is now history. What happens now to BOCES you might ask?  Well, the county notified BOCES that it would not be able to piggyback off the new contract as their class of vehicles were not included this time. BOCES had to put out their own RFB (Request For Bid). Again there were only two bidders, Brega DOT Maintenance and Chestnut Ridge Transportation. Both bids were scrutinized and an odd thing happened, both were rejected, no reason given.

On October 14 a decision was made by the Rockland BOCES superintendent to have all BOCES vehicles inspected, maintained and repaired by Southern Westchester BOCES. My belief is that Rockland BOCES did not want to go the long process that the county had gone through in previous years getting similar contracts awarded.  Having SWB maintain the buses was in best interest of BOCES and the taxpayers that foot the bill for maintaining the BOCES fleet.

Better late than never, the County now has first class transportation company to maintain the TRIPS fleet at a cost the taxpayers should be happy with. Further, it has had a good working relationship with this vendor in the past.  BOCES, even though it will have to take its buses to Westchester will see a net cost savings of many thousands of dollars. It now has he luxury of investigating its options of having the buses serviced in the county without the pressure of quickly putting out a bid that could be protested and held up for many months while paying high prices for maintenance.

Kudos to both the Rockland County Purchasing Department and the staff off Rockland BOCES for finally putting an end to the infamous $835 OIL CHANGE!

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