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Council denies protest

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Contract > GEW included no smart meters in bid for contract

By Arin McKenna

After nearly six and a half hours of hearings and more than a half hour of closed session deliberation, council unanimously denied GEW’s protest of the award of a Smart Meter contract to Landis + Gyr. The hearing began during the April 30 council session and was completed during a special session Monday.
Despite the fact that the RFP was titled “Request for Proposals for Smart Meters” and the majority of the specifications described the technical requirements for 1,785 Smart electric meters or modules for adapting existing meters, GEW’s proposal did not include one Smart Meter.
The Department of Public Utilities review committee scored GEW’s bid “0” for that reason. Purchasing Manager Annalisa Miranda also determined that GEW’s appeal was without merit because it “included no provision of or pricing for meters, which is a core element of the requested services.”
GEW’s bid also included $10.5 million for the installation of gas and water meters, with no meters provided. The RFP requested pricing for1,568 gas meters or modules and 1,500 water meters or modules, but no pricing for installation.
The only devices for which GEW provided pricing were 100 in home display units. GEW’s bid for those was $3,401 per unit, a total of $340,100, and an additional $620 to install each unit.
L + G’s bid for IHDs was $60 per unit with no installation charge. Customers take the unit out of the box, plug it in and turn it on.
Controls Engineer Alixis Creuzenet was the chief witness for GEW. According to Creuzenet’s testimony, much of the GEW proposal was based on the county’s Smart Grid Project website rather than the specifications in the RFP.
Creuzenet stated that the IHD unit GEW offered to provide could manage every aspect of a Smart House, and was therefore a better device for the project. The Smart House is a separate segment of the Smart Grid Project, not related to this RFP.
“What we had in mind for the central hub of the house is a little computer network that runs on the Linux system on which you can install any drivers that you may need in order to communicate with any type of appliances, any type of electrical light control system, any type of HVAC control system, any control system or that you could have in your house.”
Creuzenet also claimed that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Demand Response Research Center told him the IHD offered by L+G had “some limitations” because the wireless signal it uses could be subject to interruptions from such devices as microwaves and home security cameras.
Creuzenet testified that GEW had not included pricing for Smart Meters because they had not been able to obtain a price for the meters. He said that several suppliers had told them the RFP did not provide enough information about the devices and that they did not have enough time to respond. Creuzenet also claimed that L+G had failed to respond to a pricing request. None of this information appeared in GEW’s appeal.
Councilor Rick Reiss asked if GEW had notified procurement that they had not been able to obtain pricing and requested an extension. GEW’s Operations Manager Patrick Petelski responded that GEW had not. Reiss then asked if GEW had decided to re-characterize the request by tailoring it to what GEW could offer.
“No. Rather than take the 200 hours we had invested in this project and throw it in the trash can, we went ahead and turned in a proposal in hopes that they would see the value of our in home display and maybe take that portion of the RFP,” Petelski said.
It also came out during the hearing that GEW had no experience installing residential Smart Meters. GEW specializes in commercial system installation and building management systems for large buildings.
GEW’s attorney, Wayne Bingham, of Bingham, Hurst & Apodaca, had also filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that in awarding the bid before the appeal was complete, the county had not followed its own procurement rules.
Assistant County Attorney Dan Gonzalez entered into evidence the county ordinance stating that the county may proceed if awarding the bid is a matter of substantial county interest.
An email from Miranda to County Administrator Harry Burgess explaining what how awarding this bid met that requirement was also provided.
After evidence for more than a half hour in closed session, council decided against GEW on both the motion for judgment and the bid award appeal by 6–0 votes. Councilor Steve Girrens was not present at the meeting.
GEW may not be willing to drop its case. During the April 30 proceedings, GEW’s attorney Wayne Bingham threatened the county with a lawsuit if council denied the appeal.