City Hall is ready to turn over the city’s towing contract to the lower-scoring of two bidders after a last-minute change in the bid terms prompted the top-scoring firm to drop out.
Carmela Darrah-Chiafos, owner of the top-scoring bidder Darrah’s Towing and Recovery, on Tuesday said City Hall was ready to award a new two-year contract to her firm a week ago. Darrah’s has held the contract for many years.
But at the last minute, she said the city decided to make the length of the contract just six months, instead of the two-year period stated in the city’s bid documents. The contract long has been a two-year one.
“I was stunned,” Darrah-Chiafos said on Tuesday upon learning the city suddenly was changing the terms of the city towing contract.
She was informed of the contract change two hours before last Wednesday’s council meeting when the City Clerk’s office called to say that Police Chief Greg Graham made the change in the length of the towing contract because that’s the way Graham had done it when he worked for the Ocala, Fla., Police Department.
Darrah-Chiafos said it didn’t make sense for her business to invest in equipment to continue to service the city contract if the contract was only guaranteed for six months. Her bid was based on a two-year contract, not a six-month one, and so she withdrew it, she said.
In city documents provided to the City Council and the public, city staff members acknowledge that Darrah’s scored “higher” than a second company, Pro Tow LLC, and that Darrah’s withdrew because of the change in the length of the contract.
The initial bid documents posted on the city’s Web site state that the contract was for two years, not six months.
A three-member City Hall committee — Sandi Fowler, assistant to the city manager; Cory McGarvey, a police sergeant, and Dennis Hogan, the city’s fleet services manager — scored proposals from Darrah’s and Pro Tow on five criteria. Darrah’s received 91.66 points, Pro Tow, 77.49 points.
Darrah’s won on four of five criteria.
The average age of Darrah’s equipment is 6.9 years, Pro Tow’s, 12.9 years, according to the committee.
During site visits by committee members, Pro Tow’s surveillance cameras weren’t working “due to a lightning strike.” Pro Tow did not have two-way radios installed “at this time.”
Conversely, Darrah’s had in good working order a radio and computer-aided dispatch system integrated with surveillance cameras.
The Iowa Secretary of State’s office lists Marilyn Philipp as company representative of Pro Tow at 941 66th Ave. SW.
The City Council is slated to vote on the six-month towing contract at its Wednesday evening meeting. The current contract expired Tuesday night.