Gordon Russell, Times Picayune (New Orleans), Feb. 28
Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration is paying 62 percent more for the space-age parking meters cropping up on downtown streets than it would have paid for similar meters proposed by another company, a review of bid documents shows. The contract was awarded at a time when the mayor was under intense pressure to do more business with minority firms. It went to a 50-50 joint venture between the local, black-owned Parking Solutions LLC and the national company Standard Parking, both of which had political ties.
But the winning firm’s proposal didn’t include enough meters to cover the city’s 3,901 parking spaces, a requirement that at least one other bidder met. The joint venture also asked for, but was denied, a share of revenue from the meters, something none of the other vendors proposed.
Despite these problems, the group was given a high score for its pricing, but not high enough to keep it from finishing in second place among the four bidders on score sheets compiled by the city employees evaluating the bids. In steering the work to the second-ranked bid, city officials expressed concerns about the top scorer’s staffing, though staffing was already factored into the scoring.
City officials handling the bid recommended negotiating a better price, by using the No. 1 bidder’s far-lower prices as leverage. But that didn’t happen. When the deal was inked last fall, the winning partnership received the same per-space price it originally proposed, even though hundreds of the old meters won’t be replaced.
The upshot? The city is paying the firm $557 per space per year. The price includes a capital cost of $203 per space per year for the next three years, even though a quarter of the spaces will not get new meters. The price is 62 percent higher than the $343-per-space quote offered by Reino Parking Systems, the bidder that received the top score from the evaluation committee.
Political pressure coincided with the contract award.
The award came just weeks after Nagin was first denounced by a group of powerful black ministers whose chief complaint was that the mayor was not steering enough city business to firms owned by African-Americans. The parking committee’s report was issued Feb. 20, the same day the pastors held their first news conference.