"RFP" means request for proposal. New York State law requires Rochester and other cities to use the process to choose the lowest responsible bids for public works projects such as buildings and roads.
“While no one is entitled to the contract, everyone should get an equal shot at it,” says Tom Richards, corporation counsel for the City of Rochester.
The City of Rochester also uses the RFP process for services such as ambulances, however, there are no laws requiring the City to choose the lowest bid. In the case of services, the City bases its decision on quality of service to the community.
“We may not select people on the basis of the lowest bid, we make a quality judgment on whether they meet the requirements and whether they're the right people do this thing and then negotiate the price,” says Richards who talked to News 8 following City Council’s recent vote to go with Rural Metro for its ambulance service.
There are three steps to a request for proposal:
1. The City of Rochester puts out its criteria for businesses to follow when making a bid
2. A time frame is set for bidders to respond, they must respond to all parts of the RFP forms.
3. After all entries are received, a committee of experts then reviews the bids and makes a recommendation. The committee is chosen based on proposal. For example, if the project involved construction, the committee would contain members who are experts in construction.
“So everyone knows,” says Richards, “how this decision is going to be made before it gets made and people are on an equal footing.”
In the case of the City’s ambulance service provider, there were only two competitors, Rural Metro and Monroe Ambulance. The expert committee chose Monroe Ambulance. However, City Council decided to go with Rural Metro; a decision which Mayor Duffy and Richards say may have damaged the integrity of the RFP process.
“It would have been perfectly legitimate and I don't think we would have disputed it if City Council had said, we don't like the way you did this, we think you should have evaluated some other factors or we think the way that you evaluated this was not consistent with what we think is important,” says Richards.
Richards says the precedent may deter other businesses from doing business with the city in the long run.
“You have to go through a lot of trouble to answer, you do a lot of work, you prepare a lot of material so if people don't think the process is going to go the way we said it was, they'll be disinclined to bid.”
Mayor Duffy has 30 days to decide whether to veto City Council's decision to go with Rural Metro. City Council can override the veto by a 2/3 majority vote. Duffy could also choose to ask for delay, he could pull the legislation so council cannot vote on it or he could let the proposal die without signing it. If Rural Metro receives the final contract it would begin April 1st.