Chris E. O’Halloran: Setting record straight
May 8, 2013
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