Chris E. O’Halloran: Setting record straight

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Storm Mountain Express applauds the Steamboat Today editorial board for its position (“Despite flaws, airport decision right,” May 5 Pilot & Today) regarding our pursuit to provide “limited” walk-up service to passengers arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Storm Mountain Express has provided a quality, customer-oriented transportation service to the guests of our community for the past 16 years. However, we have struggled with the “good ol’ boys club attitude” of contract renewals that has plagued ground transportation since the late ’90s.

Storm Mountain Express obtained a federal authority in 2004 allowing for interstate transportation of passengers traveling from one state to another, which constitutes a majority of the guests visiting Steamboat Springs. Storm Mountain Express also holds a Colorado PUC executive van/luxury limousine license that allows us to provide ground transportation within the state.

Our original five-year contract expired Sept. 30, 2012. As in past contract negotiations, we had requested, and the county agreed, that the RFP for contract renewal occur during the off season to allow ample time for consideration and preparation.

We think the county airport administration was negligent in not providing timely notification of the RFP for the current contract renewals as witnessed by contract extensions and amended agreements from the commissioners. From county meeting minutes:

■ “Sept. 25, 2012: Commissioners meeting re: Yampa Valley Regional Airport/Dave Ruppel, amendment to license and use agreement.

“Mr. Ruppel stated that he is working on extensions until March 31, 2013, of the terms of the agreement between Routt County and ground transportation providers… the County intends to seek proposals at the beginning of next year for ground transportation contracts to commence April 1, 2013.”

■ “Motion: Commissioner (Diane) Mitsch Bush moved to approve and authorize the Chair to sign the Amendment to the License and Use Agreements … that RFPs for ground transportation will be sent in December 2012 and once responses are received, a new contract will be negotiated with the vendor awarded the contract, with a commencement date of April 1, 2013. Commissioner Monger seconded; the motion carried 2-0.”

The current RFP was not released until mid-February, in conflict with the above motion, and it occurred during the busiest winter months rather than off season, per our previous agreement.

The editorial board stated, “neither (Michael) Van Vliet nor any other representative of his company even showed up for the mandatory pre-bid meeting, even though he was aware of it.” Our records of the RFP process are:

■ Feb. 14, 2013: RFP for Class One ground transportation posted on the Routt County website. Go Alpine was the only provider notified.

N Feb. 17, 2013: RFP posted in the Sunday Steamboat Pilot & Today was only a summary and there was no published requirement of a mandatory pre-bid meeting.

■ Feb. 21, 2013: Mandatory pre-bid meeting at 10 a.m. Mr. Van Vliet was stranded by a snowstorm in Denver and by chance opened up the RFP on the county website. He noticed the mandatory meeting and immediately called Mr. Ruppel, leaving a message at approximately 12:20 p.m. After no response, a follow-up call was made several days later. Mr. Ruppel stated Storm Mountain Express did not have the proper qualifications to bid on the Class One contract and was not in attendance at the meeting and therefore was disqualified from the bid process.

■ Feb. 24, 2013: Second posting of the RFP in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. It seems the publication of this RFP was done to fulfill the legal requirements of validating a predetermined outcome rather than actually requesting valid proposals.

First and foremost, everyone agrees Storm Mountain Express should have been notified of this proposal, which would seem to be no more than a common courtesy. Second, Mr. Ruppel and County Attorney John Merrill have repeatedly denied Storm Mountain Express the opportunity to bid on Class One even though we have all the necessary permits to submit a bid for the Class One contract. Third, in the event of the failure of Go Alpine to provide contracted services within the next five years, there currently would be no one to provide that service.

Our traveling public deserves better.

Chris E. O’Halloran

Vice president and co-owner of Storm Mountain Express

Comments

John St Pierre 1 year, 7 months ago

As I have stateded in previous comments on issues at the Airport.... there needs to be a very serious look at how business is being conducted there.... - It was built without proper fire suppression considerations that now may carry a 3 million dollar price tag to rectify again....alot of monies were spent last summer to correct this problem supposedly and now here it is again..

A new terminal addtion was built with a million plus restaurant that no one apprently (per the official statements) wanted to lease or lease/operate forcing the county into the restaurant business at a loss....so what was the thought process there especially since some $35k was paid to a local consultant to formulate the consept....

Now we have this obviously seriously flawed method of selecting transport providers.

Perhaps its time to ask Federal Authorities to look at the books and procedures (since fed funds pay for most of the expenditures....I would hope that there has not been any improper back-slapping or worse... a little sun light never hurts unless you have something to hide.....

When will the county release how much the real cost of the food operations. How much it made or cost the county.. especially since these are fully benefited positions

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

Is SME saying they applied for a taxi permit when they could only serve out of state travelers to the airport? So someone flying to or from Denver can't use SME?

The RFP states: Anyone submitting a proposal response for a Class I agreement is representing that they are legally able to provide service for unlimited walk up passengers. If a court determines that they do not have this legal authority their Class I license agreement will automatically be terminated and they shall forfeit their performance security.

Thus, County should have treated SME and Go Alpine similarly because they knew both were interested. County RFP says they will let the courts decide whom is qualified. The RFP never states any specific license is needed or even that he t county reserves to disqualify applicants that it believes lack legal authority to provide taxi service. County RFP just says the applicant is representing that they are legally able to provide service.

Though, the RFP also states County intends to issue only ONE license and since SME admits they cannot serve everyone then County could be expected to have picked Go Alpine. By issuing only ONE permit the RFP was designed to award the contract to Go Alpine. Even if another fully licensed taxi company applied then County would have said Go Alpine has local history and picked Go Alpine.

This is a giant mess. A very biased RFP which Go Alpine could be the only winner and that was so apparent that Go Alpine was the only company told of the RFP by the county.

County should open up the taxi contracts at YVRA to whatever applying taxi company. And if SME or anyone else with questionable permits applies then provisionally award it upon a court ruling on whether they can provide walk up service at the airport.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 7 months ago

Scott great research !!!!

I would again suggest that the Feds step in and examine closely all the contracts at YVRA... something is askew....

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

John,

Not sure why the feds would care. No hint that their money is being spent or that airport safety is being threatened.

Traveling public aka local businesses should care because a 5 year monopoly probably will not be as good as competition.

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John St Pierre 1 year, 7 months ago

A good part of the funds used to build and maintain the airport and ongoing projects are funded thru grants & matching funds from the Feds...

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Harvey Lyon 1 year, 7 months ago

Not knowing anything about the airport of the rules re: transportation to and from.........My personal experience is anything involving Diane Mitsch Bush is likely less than transparent, honest and honorable. She finds no problem playing loose with the facts, erring on the side of political supporters and bending her statements/taking advantage of any question in the law to support her "way-to-the-left" personal convictions.

She has a PHd in Sociology and likely would agree with about 95% of the beliefs of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.

And she particularly does not like to debate, in person, her views. She's big on "espousing".

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