CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Members of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board of Directors authorized staff to enter into negotiations with the RTA's current provider of paratransit and small bus operations during a Wednesday board meeting, but not before a motion failed that would have negotiated the best rate between the top three companies that were being considered for the contract.
RTA Director Eloy Salazar noted the importance of the nearly $43.8 million five-year contract during Wednesday's meeting.
"This is the single largest contract that the RTA votes on," Salazar said. "I guess it's the most important one, is it not?"
MV Transportation was the low-bidder over the five-year contract, by about $150,000. It also received the highest staff score.
RTA Director Matt Woolbright asked staff, both at a committee meeting on September 22 and again on Wednesday, if it was possible to seek the best and final offers from the three finalists.
On September 22, RTA CEO Jorge Cruz-Aedo indicated that in contracts that are federally funded, of which this contract is, that is not the customary practice.
However, applicants were informed in the request for proposals that the RTA had the option to do just that.
On September 22, it was disclosed to the members of the operations and capital projects committee that Cruz-Aedo sits on the MV Customer Service Advisory Committee.
In a statement, the RTA addressed the role, "Jorge G. Cruz-Aedo is a member of the MV Transportation, Inc. Customer Service Advisory Committee, which consists of CEOs of transit organizations that utilize MV Transportation, Inc. as a contractor. The committee membership provides no compensation and meets once a year at the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual meeting. The committee exists as a mode of communication for MV Transportation to understand and provide better customer service to agencies that MV Transportation contracts for."
Rita Patrick, director of marketing for the RTA, said once the request for proposals went out, Cruz-Aedo had no communication with MV Transportation.
Dan Leyendecker, board secretary, said during the September meeting the committee's role is to make sure MV Transportation does better work across its platform. Leyendecker is not a member of the operations and capital projects committee.
Wednesday, Cruz-Aedo said it was the decision of staff not to pursue the best and final offer from all finalists in order to be consistent with industry practices and that the RTA was compliant in the process.
"I just want to make sure I'm understanding clearly," Woolbright asked. "We're waiving our right to not ask all of them to negotiate a better price for the agency. Is that accurate?
Robert Saldana, managing director of administration for the RTA, says that while the RTA will not negotiate with all three, it will negotiate with MV Transportation.
"It's pretty much accurate. All three of them can do a good job," Saldana said. "We've waived the right for all of them, but we're not waiving the right to negotiate individually here with one."
RTA attorney John Bell said even if the RTA were to negotiate with the companies it wouldn't make a substantial difference in the scoring, given the price differential was half a point.
Patrick said that if the RTA does not like the best and final offer given by MV Transportation, it has the option to move on to the second and then third company.
The RTA added, in a statement to KRIS 6 News, "A single Board of Directors Member asked questions that were inconsistent with the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) procurement guidelines. The aforementioned Board of Directors Member made the motion to move the contract to November and was seconded by another Board of Directors Member. The motion did not receive support."
During Wednesday's meeting, board member Eloy Salazar questioned the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) numbers for MV Transportation. He said while those numbers were not a requirement of the proposal, they were highly encouraged and had previously been included within bid proposals.
Over the last eight years, the investment by MV Transportation into DBE has amounted to $213,000, staff said.
Woolbright calculated this is about .3 percent of the company's contract price and staff said that number seemed accurate.
In response, the RTA said in a statement, "DBE was not emphasized in the RFP No. 2021-PT-11 Paratransit and Small Bus Operations contract, as the contractor would have access to competitive pricing through a national agreement. A local DBE would not have the national transit resources needed to be competitive."
Director Lynn Allison said she came into Wednesday's meeting in support of MV Transportation after speaking with staff, noting when there have been staffing issues at the company they were immediately addressed.
The company ranked number two, First Transit, indicated if any employees needed to be replaced, they would be open to that and work with the RTA. However, staff said it is unable to take that into consideration while scoring the company.
"So the drop-off in their score was based on individuals we could replace?" Woolbright asked.
Given the negligible difference in price, Director Gabi Canales questioned staff on how it arrived at scoring the three companies.
Staff told directors that after the initial scoring, the scores are revealed to determine the top three or four companies. At that point, an interview was held with the top three companies. Then a post-interview was held and staff determines if any revisions needed to be made to the scoring matrix.
Canales said the company ranked number two had the largest swing following the post-interview.
In order to seek an apples-to-apples comparison for bidding purposes, companies were given a set number of hours to bid on. However, the cost for the RTA may increase, or decrease, depending on several factors, including ridership.
The contract also includes a bid on a service that has yet to be approved by the board. That service is a new late-night ADA program.
Woolbright said he was unaware of the program and staff indicated it was something shared at the board retreat but has not yet been budgeted.
Matt Woolbright: Table the vote and over the next month seek a best and final offer from the three finalists.
Second: Gabi Canales
Yes: Matt Woolbright, Gabi Canales, Eloy Salazar
No: Eddie Martinez, Dan Leyendecker, Lynn Allison, Patricia Dominguez, Anna Jimenez, Philip Skrobarczyk, Beatriz Charo, Armando Gonzalez Jr.
Lynn Allison: Enter into negotiations with MV Transporation for a five-year contract for paratransit and small bus operations.
Second: Anna Jimenez
Yes: Eddie Martinez, Dan Leyendecker, Lynn Allison, Patricia Dominguez, Anna Jimenez, Philip Skrobarczyk, Lynn Allison, Anna Jimenez, Matt Woolbright, Eloy Salazar, Beatriz Charo, Armando Gonzalez Jr.
No: Gabi Canales