A Nevada County transportation committee opted Wednesday to pursue a contract with a Washington-based company to provide transit for the area’s elderly or disabled residents — a process that would replace Gold Country Telecare, a local nonprofit that has provided the services for the last 13 years.
While commissioners expressed regret at moving away from its long-standing partner, “It boils down to a business decision,” said Nate Beason, a member of the Nevada County Transit Commission and county supervisor.
The commissioners unanimously adopted the county staff’s recommendation to enter negotiations with Paratransit Services of Bremerton, Wash., for the management and operations of providing transportation for elderly and disabled residents.
However, Gold Country Telecare President Rick Hansen said his company did not bid for the project because of deficiencies in the county’s Request For Proposal.
“If you will recall when the RFP process started, we had many questions we felt needed to be answered to make a response,” Hansen said. “When time went by and no answers were coming, we felt we had to give you notice that we could not bid based on those concerns.”
Hansen also said that the project requirements to be negotiated with Paratransit Services are not the same as those the county requested — namely a Request For Proposal that called for any applicant to supply their own vehicles to perform the service.
In choosing Paratransit Services, the county is working toward purchasing and providing its own buses for Paratransit to use.
“If we had a level playing field — an RFP similar to the one put in front of you today — (Gold Country) Telecare would have bid on that RFP,” Hansen said.
It is a common transit industry standard for a contracting entity (the county) to supply vehicles to a contractor (Paratransit Services) to reduce their contracting costs, Steve Castleberry, director of Nevada County Public Works, said in a report to the commission.
Under such an arrangement, the contractor is then responsible for all vehicle maintenance, fuel and liability costs.
“Just to be clear, we can’t go out and buy buses tomorrow,” Castleberry said. “This is a long-term plan.”
He added, “We think this model of shifting to our own vehicles put us in line with our peers.”
At an estimated cost of $200,000, the county’s transit team has already begun to develop a plan to procure four disability-accommodating vehicles through specially-qualifying Prop 1B state funds.
Additionally, staff recommends the county purchase more vehicles in coming years to build a fleet for Paratransit Services comparable to Gold Country Telecare’s 12-bus squadron, using a combination of purpose-specific state and federal funds.
Instead of entering into negotiations to award the project to Paratransit Services, Hansen suggested the commission adopt county staff’s second option and re-advertise a modified RFP to allow other potential contractors to submit a bid knowing the county would provide a fleet. He also offered to extend Gold Country Telecare’s service contract, at a updated price, to allow the county time to re-advertise the RFP.
“Essentially the commission said ‘start negotiating with the top-selected firm.’ Now we go back to the table with Paratransit and negotiate,” Castleberry told The Union.
Part of those negotiations will include costs, which Castleberry noted should stay as close as possible to the $1.2 million budgeted for the program in the upcoming fiscal year.
Hansen told The Union that his organization could perform the work stipulated in the contract for half the price of Paratransit Services.
“We think we can negotiate a contract Paratransit Services before the June 30 date,” Castleberry said. “I feel pretty confident we can get something.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.