On Wednesday, the Eastside Biomass Project Team came together with preliminary rankings for the six proposals it received from consultants interested in producing a Biomass Feasibility Study for Mono County.
The Eastside Biomass Project Team is a group of local agency partners exploring the feasibility of a heat and/or power biomass facility in the County (see last week’s Green Sheet story, “Which Burn is Best?”). The first step in their process is to hire a consultant to produce the feasibility report. At its meeting in March, the Team expected to receive one or two responses to its Request for Proposals (RFP), instead it received six.
AESC, ANTARES, TetraTech, TSS, Veolia Energy and SCR were the six firms that threw their hats in the ring for a chance at the consulting contract. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting group members individually reviewed and ranked each of the proposals based on set criteria. Mono County Analyst Wendy Sugimura, who serves as staff support for the group, compiled each individual’s rankings into an overall evaluation matrix. The group then reviewed and discussed this matrix on Wednesday.
Through the ranking process TetraTech came out on top with TSS, SCR, AESC and ANTARES following closely behind. Veolia Energy trailed in the last position, in part due to the huge price tag attached to its proposal. At nearly $150,000, Veolia’s fee proposal was nearly three times the $50,000 budget the Biomass Team has to work with. TetraTech was over budget as well at approximately $88,000 but the group still wanted to keep them on the table and hoped the firm would “sharpen its pencil” and negotiate on price.
“All of the firms knew the budget was $50,000 when preparing their proposals, but I didn’t make that a hard cap,” Sugimura said of the language in the RFP. “I said the budget was $50,000 but that we would like to know what it would take to give a good product.”
“They were all good proposals with slightly different nuances,” said Team Member and Mammoth Lakes Fire Chief Brent Harper.
The group reviewed why each individual ranked each proposal the way they did, and discussed price, local versus out of state, and how they felt each consultant would work with staff as reasons to use one consultant over another.
Members agreed that TetraTech, TSS and SCR were the firms they would like to look at further, but rather than re-ranking to make them fit the top three slots, they ultimately decided to offer interview opportunities to the top five firms on the list, which also included AESC and ANTARES. Veolia was thrown out because of its high price tag.
“I expected proposals to stay within 10-15 percent of the $50,000,” Sugimura said of her surprise at the price discrepancies. Team members agreed.
The Team hoped that concerns surrounding each of the firms would be vetted during the interview process. For example, Sugimura was concerned that SCR had the technical expertise needed and was afraid she would end up having to manage them to a greater extent then the others. Others such as Mono County Supervisor Byng Hunt felt that TetraTech would be too big of a firm to work with.
“They are so big and broad, we’d be small peanuts,” Hunt said. “I’m afraid we’d get lost in the mix with them.” He also pointed out that TetraTech had zero experience in California.
Concerns such as these surrounded each of the firms, so the Team began to compile a list of questions to ask during interviews that would address each concern universally with all of the firms.
Sugimura was expected to contact the firms to see if they were interested in participating in the interview process.
“They are already incurring costs [by putting together the proposals], so they might not want to spend anymore time or money on an interview process,” she said.
Interviews for those firms interested will be conducted on May 15 and 20.
The Biomass Team will also be discussing its project with the Mammoth Unified School District to see if a proposed solar project at MUSD could be entwined with the potential Biomass Facility. (See Geisel’s story page 8.)