Board of Supervisors throws out bids for San Luis Obispo County retrofit project

Challenged over the way it selected a contractor to conduct retrofits, the Board of Supervisors last week threw out all bids and started over on the million-dollar project.

PacificWest Energy Solutions of Grover Beach had appealed the county’s tentative decision earlier this year to let Electricraft Inc. of San Luis Obispo perform the electrical and air conditioning work in county buildings.

Whomever the county ultimately hires would retrofit lighting, heating and air conditioning.

The protest hinged on interpretations of state and county codes whose wording Supervisor Bruce Gibson said was characterized by “vagueness.”

In general terms, the dispute was over how much of the work is electrical and how much is heating ventilation and air conditioning, and whether Electricraft qualified under the codes to do the work.Electricraft — and the county — said it did. PacificWest said it didn’t.

A disagreement over the awarding of a contract is unusual, and supervisors spent more than an hour Tuesday listening to lawyers for the two businesses, as well as their own attorneys, parsing legal terminology.

In the end, they punted.

Without admitting the county did anything wrong, supervisors followed the recommendation of General Services Director Janette Pell to reject all proposals.

They weren’t happy about it, though, because the dispute delayed the work for at least three months.

Supervisor Frank Mecham asked Pell to find ways to keep this sort of problem from happening again.

In an e-mail to The Tribune, Pell wrote that the county will now “conduct an energy audit for each of the 18 county buildings and facilities that have been identified for lighting and heating ventilation and air conditioning retrofit.

“Once this process is complete, the county will have a definite scope of work for each facility,” she wrote.

After that, Pell wrote, the county has options. It can distribute individual projects to county contractors, or it can “perform a traditional bid process in which anyone can bid the work, including Electricraft, PacificWest and anyone else qualified to perform the work.”