Utility district chooses designer for proposed broadband; work won’t start until project, financing are approved
A company has been chosen to design and provide electronics for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s proposed broadband system.
The utility district board chose a winning bidder for the fiber-to-the-user system at a meeting last week after an attorney for one of the losing bidders – Optical Solutions – hinted at legal action against the utility district.
“We were notified two days ago that we would not be considered,” said Optical Solutions attorney Mark Linderman. “We’re concerned with how this process has gone.”
The winning bidder, Wave 7 Optics, was chosen over Alcatel and Optical Solutions. The companies were rated on a points system, which took into account the cost of equipment and design, technical requirements, and a corporate evaluation.
“The bid isn’t based on dollar amount alone. The bid winner would not necessarily be the lowest bidder,” said Allan Harry, TDPUD director of telecommunications services.
It will cost the district $5,222,378 for Wave 7 to prepare the design and engineering for the overall fiber plant and provide the electronics for the network operations center and homes.
Optical Solutions’s bid was $600,000 less than Wave 7’s proposal, but Wave 7 had more overall points.
Linderman, who contended that Optical Solutions is the “undisputed market leader” in broadband design and equipment, said he was concerned with the bidding process. When Optical Solutions submitted its bid, the company included a letter stating 14 different problems it found in the TDPUD’s bid request. The other companies had no problems with the bid documents.
“We’re being punished for being up front,” Linderman told the board. “We should not be disqualified for that.”
In addition to Linderman’s accusations of an unfair bidding process, he also charged the utility district of violating Truckee municipal code, which does not govern the TDPUD.
Utility district board member Jim Maass told the attorney he’d rather argue the bidding issue in court than waste time in public session.
“We’ve waited on this project long enough,” Maass said. “We don’t need this one more hurdle.”
During the bidding process, Harry and TDPUD attorney Steve Gross determined Optical Solutions’ bid to be “non-responsive” because the proposal did not guarantee the company would enter a contract with the TDPUD.
“Then their bid security … is not at risk,” Gross said. “That gives them an unfair competitive advantage, and the bid can be rejected.”
Director Pat Sutton, who was the only board member to vote against the item, said the Gross’ argument was like “the pot calling the kettle black.”
“We don’t have the authorization or the funding to do the work on this project,” Sutton said. Sutton has been consistently opposed to the utility district’s broadband project.
Wave 7 will not begin the working on the equipment and design of the system until the utility district is able to secure an estimated $15 million to finance the project and approval of Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission to begin the project.
If Wave 7 creates a design, the utility district will go out to bid for the fiber and construction of the project.
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