A Florida hearing examiner has ruled that Miami-Dade Transit unfairly disqualified Fort Valley, Ga.-based bus manufacturer Blue Bird Coachworks from competing for a multimillion contract, and suggested that the transit agency should nullify the contract, which was won by Optima Bus Corp. in Wichita, Kan.
Blue Bird and Optima were two of a number of bus manufacturers bidding on a procurement contract that could ultimately be worth more than $200 million to build 300 new 30-foot buses for Miami-Dade Transit. It also incluided an option for an additional 300 buses.
The ruling, made by retired Circuit Judge Jack M. Turner, stems from a bid protest that was filed by Blue Bird after it was disqualified by Miami-Dade Transit in the final stages of the bidding process because its financial statements did not include auditor notes, which the procurement committee said made it impossible to review the company’s financial position.
Since the agency felt that it was unable to determine if Blue Bird was financially sound enough to complete a multimillion-dollar deal, it chose to go with Optima, even though its bid was $12 million higher.
In his ruling, Turner stated that Optima should actually be disqualified from the bidding process because it, too, was unable to provide adequate financial statements.
In addition, Turner said there was no basis for the procurement committee to completely reject Blue Bird’s proposal based upon an “immaterial technical irregularity.”
According to Manuel Palmerio, Miami-Dade Transit’s public information officer, it is now up to County Manager George M. Burgess to decide what to do next.
Burgess’ options include choosing to move forward with the original Optima contract, throwing out the company’s bid and reevaluating the other bids they received or, the most likely option, starting the procurement process over from scratch.
Bruce Libhaber, an attorney for Miami-Dade Transit, said a decision from Burgess was expected in early November. At press time, however, no decision had been announced.