Eight companies submitted proposals to build a waste reduction facility by the Tuesday deadline.
“We’re very excited that we got eight responses and we’re looking forward to working with the finalists for our new facility,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said late Wednesday.
The county at first refused to provide the number of bidders, but provided the information Wednesday evening after Stephens Media Hawaii made repeated calls to county officials and the state Office of Information Practices.
Officials at first told Stephens Media Hawaii the number of responses wouldn’t be released because if there is a limited number of responses, it could compromise the final negotiations for what is likely to be the biggest public works project in county history.
Maui County, which went through a similar process last year, released the number of responses to its proposals before it selected its final choice from five finalists. Maui had more than 100 responses to its initial request for qualifications, followed by 20 responses to the formal request for proposals.
State procurement law, which governs county RFPs, states, “The contents of any proposal shall not be disclosed so as to be available to competing offerors during the discussion and negotiation process.”
It doesn’t address the disclosure of how many vendors responded or the names of the vendors.
“Now that it is closed, I don’t see how the number of submitters is an issue,” said Carlotta Amerino, staff attorney for the state Office of Information Practices. “But if there’s a request for records, it’s (the county’s) burden to prove.”
Kenoi’s Executive Assistant Kevin Dayton said the law requires the names of the three finalists to be released when they are selected. That could happen as early as next month.
Last month, county officials shuttled a dozen potential bidders around the Hilo landfill to show them where a facility could be located.
The would-be bidders represented a range of companies offering everything from waste-to-energy incineration to recycling, composting and gasification. Among those in the group were Covanta Energy, builder of Oahu’s HPower incinerator; Bodell Construction, builder of an expansion to the Puna geothermal power plant; and Anaergia Inc., the winning bidder for Maui County’s proposed anaerobic garbage digester facility.
Also attending the bidders’ conference and landfill tour was Michael Kaha, representing Waste Management’s Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.
Kenoi is set on having a facility on the ground before he leaves office in 2016. The ambitious timeline set the Tuesday deadline for the first round of proposals. A county panel, along with consultants, will evaluate the proposals and invite the top three companies to respond to a more detailed solicitation.
The winning proposal will be selected in January, with a contract signed by April 2015.
Kenoi previously vowed to keep the procurement process open and transparent to forestall concerns by County Council and the public, following a failed attempt to get a Wheelabrator waste-to-energy contract inked in 2008 during former Mayor Harry Kim’s administration.
But Kenoi also told the Environmental Management Commission in February details would be kept close to the vest.
“Once we get to the procurement stage, once the RFP is issued, it’s locked down, because you want the process to be integral,” Kenoi said at the time.
Kenoi said earlier Wednesday even he didn’t know how many vendors responded, and he was following the lead of his purchasing agent, Jeffrey Dansdill. Dansdill was out of the office Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.