PLANT CITY The owner of a Lake Wales equipment firm is arguing that the city wasted more than $276,000 by not accepting his bid for 10 new garbage trucks.
JLM Equipment President John Mentz wrote a strongly worded letter to city commissioners contending the city should buy the trucks from him for a total of $1.19 million, instead of from RDK Municipal Truck Center for nearly $1.47 million.
"I feel that if the city council follows through and awards the bid to RDK Truck Sales, then the city council has done their constituents a great disservice and have recklessly spent a large amount of money needlessly," he wrote.
City officials counter, however, that the truck offered by JLM Equipment didn't meet the city's specifications.
Some city commissioners said they were a bit unnerved by the letter and asked for reassurance from City Manager Greg Horwedel and City Attorney Ken Buchman.
Horwedel explained that the truck offered by JLM failed to meet such requirements as gauge of the steel in the body and in its electric wiring, among other shortcomings.
"I can understand that he's disappointed that he didn't get the bid," Horwedel told the commissioners.
In an interview on June 11, the day after the meeting, Horwedel added, "we really don't care who the bid comes from but it has to meet our specifications."
Buchman assured commissioners that they were within their rights to award the bid to the Tampa-based RDK.
Commissioner Rick Lott said he called an engineer who offered an independent opinion that RDK was offering a better truck.
Lott and the other commissioners stood behind the staff's decision to award the bid to RDK.
Mentz contended he was offering a truck that would meet the city's needs at a lower price. He said the city wasn't making a fair comparison. He also complained about the way the city staff handled the bid process.
"I would not want to think that there are political or improper influences over the decisions being made to spend the taxpayers hard earned money but I would certainly call for an investigation if I was in your shoes," he wrote.
Mentz said he sent a copy of his letter to the governor's office and was notifying some other governments in the area that he was offering trucks at lower prices than the bid accepted by Plant City.
But he said there's nothing more he can do than spread the word that he believes the city paid more than needed.
"I'm just speaking out," Mentz said.