Truckee drops license for snow-removal contracts
The Town of Truckee has opened up who can bid on public snow-removal contracts, but critics say the move may hurt accountability and the quality of work.
Two contracts for the Prosser area and downtown parking, and a list of on-call snow removal contracts, have gone out to bid this year, and for the first time do not require contractor’s licenses. All bids must be submitted to the town by 4 p.m. Thursday.
The town manager said the change reflects an attempt to encourage more competitive bidding for the winter work.
“We are trying to get the most competitive bids possible,” said Town Manager Tony Lashbrook in a phone interview. “A couple of years ago the contract for Glenshire only got one bid, and it was two-and-a-half times more than expected.”
Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said the California Contractors State License Board decides which license-holders can do what work, and currently the state does not require a contractor’s license for snow removal.
“In the past, we’ve imposed a local requirement of an excavator’s or paving contractor’s license,” Wilkins said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What is important to the taxpayers?'”
But Ryan Kautz of RK Excavating questioned the change, saying more is involved in using licensed contractors than the number of competitive bids.
“Having a contractor’s license shows a level of legitimacy; you have to have bonding with the state, which you forfeit if you fail to meet your contract,” Kautz said in a phone interview.
That gives the town greater assurance that a snow-removal business will meet its contractual obligations, he said.
Wilkins said the town has insurance requirements for liability issues, but won’t require a bond, because it would add to the cost of the bid. He said the town will hold contractors to the same standards the town requires of its in-house crews, requiring five years of snow-removal experience and the proper operator’s licenses for snow plows.
“A landscaping company may have the equipment; it may make some sense to look at this type of work’s overlap into snow removal,” Wilkins said.
Kautz said he doubts any unlicensed contractor in the area would be able to show five years experience.
“Most local landscaping companies have never done commercial work; they’ve shoveled sidewalks with Hondas,” Kautz said.
Whether the more open bidding will result in a larger number of bids, or more competitive bidding, won’t be known until the bids are in, Wilkins said. But Kautz said three nonlicensed companies attended the same pre-bid meeting that three licensed contractors did.
Wilkins said he expects to see rising gas prices reflected in the snow-removal bids, but hopes more bids will bring down prices.
Last year, the contract for snow removal in the downtown parking areas went for $37,000, while the Prosser-area contract has fallen between $125,000 and $150,000 over the last few years, Wilkins said.